After giving a speech critical of the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said politics in Washington aren’t as polarizing as they seem.
“I want to disabuse you of the notion that politics is more contentious than it’s ever been,” McConnell said to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce at its inaugural Congressional Forum. He then mentioned an incident in 1856 when Rep. Preston Brooks beat Sen. Charles Sumner with a cane.
McConnell was joined at the forum by Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington; Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville; and Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green.
McConnell blamed the Obama Administration for much of the current anger seen throughout the country, saying that when there is a large recession, there’s usually an equally large recovery.
“We’ve had a deep recession and a tepid recovery,” McConnell said.
He attributed the lack of growth to an increase in federal regulations on businesses.
“You’re being massively overregulated no matter what business you’re in,” McConnell said. “It’s been a regulatory rampage going on all across America for eight years. That’s what produces this kind of tepid growth rate.”
McConnell said he has little power to combat federal regulations.
McConnell also said the federal health care overhaul is failing.
Recently, health insurance company Aetna pulled out of several insurance markets created under the Affordable Care Act, claiming it was losing too much money after the Obama administration blocked a merger with Cigna.
“All of this was entirely predictable,” McConnell said, “and while a few more people have been insured, the question is, what is the cost-benefit ratio?”
McConnell stood firm on his pledge to not confirm an Obama-appointed Supreme Court nominee, despite Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s poor polling numbers over the past month.
“The current president, on the way out the door, will not fill the vacancy,” McConnell said.
McConnell also affirmed his support of Trump.
“If you’re satisfied with the last eight years, you really think this is as good as America can do, vote for Hillary Clinton,” McConnell said. “But if you think America is underperforming and needs to take a different direction, then I think that would be a vote for Donald Trump.”
Yarmuth, Kentucky’s only Democrat holding federal office, took issue with much of what McConnell said.
“What you saw from Mitch McConnell, what you heard from Mitch McConnell, is part of the problem,” Yarmuth said.
Yarmuth criticized Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, for submitting a waiver to overhaul the state’s Medicaid program that Yarmuth said Bevin knows will be rejected by the federal government. Yarmuth said Bevin is hoping the waiver gets rejected so he can blame Obama for kicking hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians off Medicaid.
“He has made a proposal that will get rejected by the federal government,” Yarmuth said. “Because they told him they would.”
Daniel Desrochers: 502-875-3793, @drdesrochers or @bgpolitics