Mitch McConnell: Time for GOP Establishment to 'Stand Up to' Tea Party

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican up for re-election in 2014, told the Washington Examiner in an interview published Friday that he believes it is time for the GOP establishment to stop conservatives and Tea Partiers.

McConnell argued it is “utter nonsense” for groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF), which has endorsed his primary challenger businessman Matt Bevin, to argue that Republicans like him in Congress are not fighting hard enough to defeat Democrats. In the interview, McConnell focused on deriding Tea Partiers for leading the effort to defund Obamacare—something that, coupled with the Democrats’ refusal to compromise on the soon-to-fail Obamacare, resulted in a government shutdown.

“The Senate Conservatives Fund is giving conservatism a bad name,” McConnell told the Examiner for the piece titled “The Establishment Fights Back: Mitch McConnell leads GOP battle against Tea Party insurgents.”

“They’re [SCF] participating in ruining the [Republican] brand,” McConnell said. “What they do is mislead their donors into believing the reason that we can’t get as good an outcome as we’d like to get is not because of a Democratic Senate and a Democratic president, but because Republicans are insufficiently committed to the cause—which is utter nonsense.”

McConnell had not only personally opposed, during the shutdown, the effort from Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) to defund Obamacare, he actually whipped votes against them, according to a Congressional source. Cruz and Lee had staked their battle on a key cloture vote that would have, if McConnell had united the Republican Party to deliver 41 votes against the use of taxpayer money to fund Obamacare, stopped Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from using a procedural ploy to fund Obamacare with just 51 votes.

McConnell voted with the Senate Democrats in favor of cloture  and reportedly whipped the Senate GOP conference to join him. While a majority of Senate Republicans—25, including McConnell—voted to allow Reid to procedurally fund Obamacare with just 51 votes cloture, 19 stood with Cruz and Lee. Those 19 Republicans included senior GOP senators like Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Jim Risch (R-ID), and Jerry Moran (R-KS).

McConnell made an argument for what he termed “electable” candidates that he deems necessary to win back the U.S. Senate for the GOP. “To have the kind of year we ought to have in 2014, we have to have electable candidates on November ballots in every state—people that don't scare the general electorate and can actually win, because winners make policy and losers go home,” McConnell said in his interview with the Examiner. “We can't just turn the other cheek and hope for the best. It didn't work in 2010 and 2012 so we're going to try something different in 2014.”

McConnell is now, according to Bloomberg News, getting financial backing from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in his reelection campaign against Bevin. 

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pouring money into a television advertising campaign defending Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, whose primary fight against a Tea Party-backed rival is shaping up as a test of establishment efforts to reclaim the Republican Party,” Bloomberg reported last Wednesday. “The business lobby will spend about $180,000 on a 10-day statewide blitz beginning Dec. 2 on behalf of McConnell, a five-term Republican, said a person familiar with the plans who asked not be identified because the ad buy hasn’t been announced.”

The Chamber of Commerce is leading the GOP establishment's efforts to undercut the Tea Party movement and is the tip of the spear—along with Crossroads GPS's Karl Rove—of the establishment's efforts to strike back against the surging grassroots conservatism across America. 

Bevin has been gaining steam lately, partly due to McConnell’s mistakes in attacking conservatives and also by wrapping up a series of key grassroots support elements like an 85 percent victory in the Boone County, KY, GOP straw poll right before Thanksgiving. In an interview last weekend with Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon on Breitbart News Sunday, Bevin described his primary challenge against McConnell as a "microcosm" of the national fight between the Tea Party movement and the GOP establishment. 

Rather than embracing conservatism, McConnell’s strategy has been to attempt to isolate and excoriate SCF for backing Bevin. McConnell has been largely unsuccessful in doing so, as his actions have garnered him attention and criticism from other Tea Party-minded organizations who say attacking SCF is attacking the entire conservative movement. 

Tea Party Patriots national coordinator Jenny Beth Martin and Tea Party Express chairwoman Amy Kremer both say it is unfair to attack SCF and try to separate the organization, which was founded by Heritage Foundation president former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and whose help has directly led to the elections of Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT), among many others.

McConnell’s latest slip-up, as it is being portrayed by Bevin, is a quote that appeared in the Bowling Green Daily News, in which McConnell said that he would be open to allowing Obamacare to remain the law of the land provided significant changes were made to it. 

McConnell said “he is not averse to talking about changes [to Obamacare], provided they are significant ones,” the paper reported.

“I'm just not going to throw somebody a lifeline (by extending the deadline for signup) just to get someone through the election,” McConnell said.

In response to that comment, Bevin held a conference call with reporters both in national and in Kentucky media to point out the Senate Minority Leader has essentially abandoned his previous promises to repeal Obamacare “root and branch.”

“We really want to call attention to the fact that there really is nothing conservative about his approach and there is really nothing with respect to what the American people want, which is a repeal,” Bevin said on the call, according to the Courier-Journal newspaper in Louisville, Kentucky.


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