About Addison Mitchell "Mitch" McConnell, Jr.
Addison Mitchell "Mitch" McConnell, Jr. (born February 20, 1942), a Republican, is the senior United States Senator from Kentucky and the Minority Leader.
Early life, education, and military service
McConnell was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama to Julia (née Shockley) and Addison Mitchell McConnell.
McConnell was raised in southern Louisville, Kentucky, where he attended the duPont Manual High School, and in 1964 he graduated with honors from the University of Louisville with a B.A. in political science. He was student body president and a member of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity. McConnell has maintained strong ties to his alma mater, and "remains a rabid fan of its sports teams." He graduated in 1967 from the University of Kentucky College of Law, where he was elected president of the Student Bar Association.
McConnell became a member of the 100th Division (Training), U.S. Army Reserve, in Louisville, Kentucky, during his final semester of law school; and he reported for his six months of active service, primarily for training, in July 1967. After induction at Fort Knox, Kentucky, McConnell was released early from his active-duty military service in August 1967. McConnell received a medical discharge for optic neuritis, which is a common manifestation of multiple sclerosis.
Early political career
In 1967, to gain experience on Capitol Hill, during his final semester of law school, McConnell was an intern for Senator John Sherman Cooper (R-KY). Later, he was an assistant to Senator Marlow Cook (R-KY) and was a Deputy Assistant Attorney General under President Gerald R. Ford. From 1978 until his election to the Senate, he was the Jefferson County Judge/Executive, the former top political office in Jefferson County, Kentucky, which includes Louisville. However, Louisville and certain small cities were not under the County Judge's jurisdiction during that time.
In 1984, McConnell ran for the U.S. Senate against two-term Democratic incumbent Walter "Dee" Huddleston. The election race wasn't decided until the last returns came in, and McConnell won by a thin margin—only 5,200 votes out of more than 1.8 million votes cast, just over 0.4%. McConnell was the only Republican Senate challenger to win that year, despite Ronald Reagan's landslide victory in the presidential election. Part of McConnell's success came from a series of television campaign spots called "Where's Dee", which featured a group of bloodhounds trying to find Huddleston, implying that Huddleston's attendance record in the Senate was less than stellar. It is likely that he was helped by Ronald Reagan's 21-point win in Kentucky that year. His campaign bumper stickers and television ads asked voters to "Switch to Mitch".
In 1990, McConnell faced a tough re-election contest against former Louisville Mayor Harvey I. Sloane, winning by 4.5 points. In 1996, he soundly defeated Steve Beshear, even as Bill Clinton narrowly carried the state. In keeping with a tradition of humorous and effective television ads in his campaigns, McConnell's campaign ran television ads that warned voters to not "Get Besheared" and included images of sheep being sheared. In 2002, he was re-elected with the largest majority by a Republican candidate in Kentucky history. In 2008, McConnell defeated Democratic opponent Bruce Lunsford in general election.
During the 1998 and 2000 election cycles, McConnell was chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Republicans maintained control of the Senate in both. He was first elected as Majority Whip in the 108th Congress and unanimously re-elected on November 17, 2004. Senator Bill Frist, the Majority Leader, did not seek re-election in the 2006 elections. In November 2006, after Republicans lost control of the Senate, they elected McConnell to replace Frist as Minority Leader.
He is widely considered a kingmaker in Kentucky Republican politics. Although he is considered by many as an ardent conservative, he has distanced himself from the majority in his party by supporting earmarks and opposing the Flag Desecration Amendment.
McConnell has supported several gun control measures put forth by Democrats, including the 1991 Crime Bill S.1241 (see U.S. Senate Roll Call Vote here) sponsored by then senator Joseph Biden, that instituted a national waiting period for handgun purchases as well as a federal ban on semi-automatic firearms. In 1998, McConnell voted for Barbara Boxer's Trigger Lock Amendment 3230 (see U.S. Senate Roll Call Vote here), which required the purchase of a trigger lock with the sale of each handgun.
In addition to regulation of fire arms, McConnell has also supported nuclear arms control initiatives such as the START I treaty, which he voted for in 1992, describing it as "an outstanding agreement".
McConnell is also well known for his opposition to campaign finance regulation on First Amendment grounds. He argues that regulations reduce participation in political campaigns and protect incumbents from competition. He spearheaded the movement against the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (known since 1995 as the "McCain–Feingold bill" and from 1989–1994 as the "Boren–Mitchell bill"), calling it "neither fair, nor balanced, nor constitutional." His opposition to the bill culminated in the 2003 Supreme Court case McConnell v. Federal Election Commission and the 2009 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
In August 2007 McConnell introduced the Protect America Act of 2007, which allowed the National Security Agency to monitor telephone and electronic communications of suspected terrorists inside and outside the United States without obtaining a warrant.
In 1996, McConnell demanded that President Clinton allow White House aides to testify under oath. On April 1, 2007, Chris Wallace suggested that McConnell's stance on Karl Rove and Harriet Miers testifying under oath in relation to the Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy was contradictory. Wallace asked, "In 1996, you were saying those White House aides should testify in open hearing. These were White House aides of Bill Clinton, in open hearing under oath. Why shouldn't the same rules apply for the [George W.] Bush White House and people like Karl Rove?" McConnell replied, "And what I’m telling you is the president's going to make that decision."
McConnell was the writer of the Gas Price Reduction Act. The GPRA calls for more offshore and domestic oil exploration, to try to curb rising gas prices.
On April 21, 2009, McConnell delivered a speech to the Senate criticizing United States President Barack Obama's plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba. During the speech, he suggested that Obama's closure plans might result in the release of "murderers" into the U.S. He also asserted that the Department of Defense had identified 18 former Guantanamo prisoners who allegedly returned to battle, whom he called "recidivists", and he predicted that the closure of the camp would result in additional former captives returning to the battlefield.
McConnell opposed President Barack Obama's health reform legislation; he voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009, and he voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.
War in Iraq
McConnell voted for the initial War in Iraq, has supported the "troop surge", and opposed a timetable for withdrawal from the country. McConnell remains one of the strongest supporters of the Iraq War, which he considers a central part of the War on Terrorism. He holds the view that the violence in Iraq is perpetrated primarily by al-Qaeda and other international jihadists who would otherwise be engaged in terrorist actions within the United States. In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper on January 10, 2007 (after President Bush's announcement of an escalation in troop levels in Iraq), McConnell claimed that the war in Iraq was a success because it had prevented terrorist attacks in the U.S. since the September 11 attacks. He warned that if the United States withdrew from Iraq, "the terrorists would come after us where we live."
In 2006, McConnell publicly criticized Senate Democrats for urging that troops be brought back from Iraq. According to Bush’s Decision Points memoir, however, McConnell was privately urging the then President to “bring some troops home from Iraq” to lessen the political risks. McConnell’s hometown paper, the Louisville Courier-Journal, in an editorial titled "McConnell’s True Colors", criticized McConnell for the hypocrisy of his actions and asked him to “explain why the fortunes of the Republican Party are of greater importance than the safety of the United States.”
Regarding the failure of the Iraqi government to make reforms, McConnell said the following on Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer: "The Iraqi government is a huge disappointment. Republicans overwhelmingly feel disappointed about the Iraqi government. I read just this week that a significant number of the Iraqi parliament want to vote to ask us to leave. I want to assure you, Wolf, if they vote to ask us to leave, we'll be glad to comply with their request."
On the June 17, 2007, edition of CBS News' Face the Nation, McConnell said, "Most members of my conference in the Senate believe [that September will be] the critical point to evaluate where we are ... I think everybody anticipates that there's going to be a new strategy in the fall. I find growing support in the Senate among Republicans, and for that matter, some Democrats as well, for the recommendations of the [Baker-Hamilton] Iraq Study Group".
On July 9, 2007, in Hopkinsville, Kentucky at Fort Campbell, speaking to a contingent of troops about to ship out for a 15-month deployment to Iraq, McConnell said, "The majority of the public has decided the Iraq effort is not worth it," he said. "That puts a lot of pressure on Congress to act because public opinion in a democracy is not irrelevant."
In its 2009 report, liberal government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington named McConnell one of the 15 most corrupt members of Congress, stating that "Sen. McConnell's ethics issues stem primarily from (1) earmarks he inserted into legislation for clients of his former chief of staff in exchange for campaign contributions and (2) the misuse of his nonprofit McConnell Center for Political Leadership at the University of Louisville." McConnell was also included in the group's report in 2007 and 2008.
In 2004, during the debate over the FY2005 Defense Authorization Act, McConnell offered an alternative amendment (S.AMDT.3472) to that proposed by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). McConnell's amendment required the president to submit a public report to Congress on the strategy of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq regarding stabilization and rebuilding no later than 120 days after the bill passed. Opponents, mostly Democrats, argued the measure was not strong enough, for unlike that proposed by Kennedy, it did not require President Bush to provide an estimate regarding future troop levels in Iraq. The amendment passed, unlike Kennedy's, in a 71-27 vote. Main article: Congressional actions on the Iraq War following the 2003 U.S. invasion President Bush's troop "surge" in Iraq.
In late January 2007, Senate Minority Leader McConnell said that Republicans would not attempt to filibuster a non-binding resolution opposing the "surge."
On February 5, 2007, the Senate planned to address several of the nonbinding resolutions concerning the troop "surge." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader McConnell were unable, however, to agree on which resolutions would be debated and the manner in which they would be considered. Before the debate began, Reid offered Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) a choice. Either all three proposed resolutions could come to a vote, with a simple majority needed for passing any of them, or a debate and vote would be held only on the resolutions introduced by Sens. John Warner (R-Va.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), with each requiring sixty votes to pass. McConnell, however, wanted all three resolutions to face a sixty-vote requirement, likely because it was believed only the Gregg measure could reach this threshold. In the end, the two sides could not reach an agreement, and Republicans blocked debate on the bill. Following an attempted cloture vote on one of the measures, which Republicans successfully filibustered, McConnell downplayed the vote as a mere procedural hurdle, calling it a “bump in the road” and added, “We are ready and anxious to have this debate this week.”
On February 17, another cloture vote was attempted on a troop "surge" resolution, but it also failed. Again, the filibuster was caused by a disagreement between Senate leaders. McConnell refused to support a vote on the resolution unless Majority Leader Reid also allowed a vote on a resolution promising that the Senate would continue to fund the war.
On March 26, 2007, McConnell asserted that although he would attempt to block a Democratic effort to force troop withdrawal contained in the Iraq spending bill, he would most likely not push to filibuster the measure, as he was sure that President Bush will veto the package. "Our goal is to pass it quickly... Our troops need the money." Unable to override Bush's veto, Democrats would have to redraft the bill without a "surrender deadline," he said. The legislation would require that Bush begin pulling out some troops right away with the goal of ending combat missions by March 31, 2008. Despite the Democrat's first attempt at including a deadline for troop withdrawal from Iraq, McConnell expressed confidence following the vote that Bush’s request for a “clean spending bill” (one without any calls for withdrawal) would ultimately pass. He stated, “It may take two tries to get there, but I think that’s very likely going to be the final outcome.”
When the first bill passed both chambers and then was vetoed by the President, Democrats attempted a second spending bill without a timetable, which only provided short term funding for the war. McConnell still voiced strong opposition to this provision. Main article: U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007 (H.R.2206) Following a failed cloture vote on Sen. Russ Feingold's (D-Wis.) amendment (S.AMDT.1098) to end funding for the Iraq War in 2008, another attempt to use a spending bill to withdrawal U.S. forces, Minority Leader McConnell stated that "once again, an overwhelming bipartisan majority rejected giving our enemy a timeline for withdrawal...The U.S. Senate has continued to show that an arbitrary surrender date is a non-starter. We need to move forward with the business of ensuring our troops have the funding, training and equipment they need to complete their mission."
From 2003 to 2008, among McConnell's top 20 donors have been 5 financial/investment firms: UBS, FMR Corporation (Fidelity Investments), Citigroup, Bank of New York and Merrill Lynch. During his entire political career, the top three industries donating to McConnell have been: Lawyers ($1.5 million), Securities and Investments ($1.5 million), and Health Professionals ($1.4 million).
In April 2010, while Congress was considering financial reform legislation, a reporter asked McConnell if he was "doing the bidding of the large banks." McConnell has received more money in donations from the "Finance, Insurance and Real Estate" sector than any other sector according to the Center for Responsive Politics. McConnell responded "I'd say that that's inaccurate. You could talk to the community bankers in Kentucky." The Democrats’ plan for financial reform is actually a way to institute "endless taxpayer funded bailouts for big Wall Street banks," says McConnell. McConnell is concerned that the proposed $50 billion, bank-funded fund that would be used to liquidate financial firms that could collapse "would of course immediately signal to everyone that the government is ready to bail out large banks." In McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, the Lexington Herald Leader newspaper ran an opinion page story saying “We have read that the Republicans have a plan for financial reform, but McConnell isn't talking up any solutions, just trashing the other side's ideas with no respect for the truth.
Obama 2012 comment
Speaking with National Journal magazine about Republican Party priorities for the 2008-2010 Congress, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell explained that "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
Mitch McConnell has voted in favor of big oil companies on 100% of important oil-related bills from 2005–2007, according to Oil Change International. These bills include Iraq war funding, climate change studies, clean energy, and emissions.
Campaign spending regulations
In April 2007, after a Republican Senator placed an anonymous hold on the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act of 2007, which would require Senators to file their campaign finance reports electronically to the Federal Election Commission, the Sunlight Foundation led a campaign to try and discover the identity of the anonymous senator. They eventually sought to procure the name from Minority Leader McConnell. Since all objections to legislation must be lodged with the party leader, McConnell was sure to know who was behind the objection. McConnell refused to release the name of the senator behind the hold. He stated that the failure of the bill's passage lied at the feet of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for refusing to bring the bill up for a floor vote. When Sens. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.} argued that the bill must pass by unanimous consent to avoid unnecessary amendments, McConnell admitted that the objecting Senator wished to add amendments to the bill.
On May 7, 2007, Sen. Feinstein sent a letter to McConnell asking for his help in passing the bill. Sen. Feinstein wrote, "I am ready to meet with [the objecting] Senators to discuss their amendments and try to address their concerns." As of yet, McConnell has not publicly responded.
On June 26, McConnell argued that he would not allow S.1, an important lobbying reform bill (which had passed), to go into conference unless Senate Republicans were allowed to add an amendment to the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act (a so-called "poison pill" amendment). The amendment would allow party committees, like the RNC or the DSCC, to coordinate campaign activities with candidate committees. The amendment was widely opposed to by a majority of Democrats and would not only make the bill's passage impossible in conference or in the House, but also endanger the entire lobbying and ethics reform package. This maneuver was blocked by Majority Leader Reid, but resulted in stalling the appointment of Senate conferees on S. 1.
On June 28, 2007, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) blocked a deal between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader McConnell that would have started up long-stalled conference proceedings on the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007. DeMint made an objection to the agreement by phone to the Senate floor, minutes after McConnell had said Republicans would drop their objections to naming conferees. DeMint argued that he would not let the bill proceed until certain earmark reforms were accepted. He stated, "We will not have earmark reform during this year’s appropriations process. That is why this is being done," DeMint charged on the floor, adding later that "the only reason to go to conference with [the rules] in is to take them out." Democrats responded, Harry Reid commenting, "Here we are, seconds from going to conference and a call comes in to the Republican cloak room. I understand the Minority Leader has a responsibility to take that ... but the eyes of the nation are on us... to not let us go to conference on some petty issue that my friend has raised is really bad.” ] Jack Abramoff connection
McConnell "said through his spokesman that the money given to him and his political committee by three [American Indian] tribes will be donated to the Wayside Christian Mission in Louisville, which helps the poor and homeless. While federal records show McConnell received $18,500, his office's accounting showed $19,500, and that is what will be given to Wayside," James R. Carroll reported in the January 5, 2006, Louisville, Kentucky, Courier-Journal.
Clash Over 9/11 bill
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and McConnell are disputing a provision to a 9/11 Bill. The current legislation gives collective bargaining rights to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners. Republicans have blasted Democrats, arguing that the bill is a giveaway to the labor interests that have given crucial political support to the new majority. Meanwhile, the Democrats say the provision is a necessary clause for this homeland security bill.
9/11 Commission recommendations
On June 26, 2007, Congress Democrats expressed the plan to push for the passage of a bill implementing terrorism-prevention measures suggested by the 9/11 commission. The goal would to pass the bill before the July 4 recess, though it was expected that Senate Republicans, led by Minority Leader McConnell, would probably object to the quick consideration necessary the bill to be sent to the president before the recess. One Democratic House aide commented, "If Sen. McConnell and the Republican leadership in the Senate chose obstruction on this legislation, it serves no one’s interests but the special interests."