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Public Affairs

One to One with Mitch McConnell

Republican Mitch McConnell likes to use a sports analogy to describe his role in the U.S. Senate. In his current job as Minority Leader, he says he’s the defensive coordinator. The job he wants, Senate Majority Leader, would make him the offensive coordinator.

“You can occasionally score on defense, but the offensive coordinator gets to call the plays and has a better chance of putting up points on the board.”

But two things stand in the way of McConnell moving to the offensive side of the ball: He must first win his reelection bid against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, and Republicans have to gain control of the Senate.

The incumbent talked about this year’s campaign and what he hopes to achieve for Kentucky in his sixth term on a special edition of One to One that aired Monday night.

A Divided But Productive Government

McConnell contends Washington can tackle significant issues even when different parties hold the White House and Congress. As examples, he cites President Bill Clinton and Republicans partnering on welfare reform and balancing the budget. He also touts three bipartisan tax and budget deals he’s negotiated with Vice President Joe Biden.

“The American people have elected divided government frequently, but they’re not saying they don’t want us to do anything,” McConnell contends. “They want us to look at areas of potential agreement.

If he ascends to Majority Leader, McConnell believes he and President Obama could agree on comprehensive tax reform to lower corporate tax rates, and negotiating new trade agreements for American goods.

Where they won’t agree is on Obama Administration fiscal and regulatory policies that McConnell claims have stymied economic growth and job creation, especially in Kentucky’s coalfields.

“We’re going to put things on his desk that challenge the assumption that it’s good for America to have this much adversarial relationship between government and those who are regulated,” says McConnell.

Policy Positions

The Senator says he supports equal pay for equal work, but he is against legislation that he argues would lead to more lawsuits over the matter. McConnell takes a similar position on the Violence Against Women Act: He says he was a co-sponsor of the original legislation, and he backed a stronger version that did not pass. But he opposed a recent edition because he says it would “reward the plaintiffs’ lawyers who are a big part of the Democratic base.”

When asked about a newspaper story from earlier this year that quoted McConnell as saying it wasn’t his job to create employment in the state, the senator emphatically states he’s “absolutely involved in job creation.” He points to tourism jobs that resulted from his actions to protect fishing on Lake Barkley, and the water level at Lake Cumberland.

On energy policy, McConnell says the plentiful supply of coal in Kentucky means the industry has a future in Appalachia and America – so long as environmental policies regulating coal are reversed. He says coal jobs must be preserved while working to diversify the economy of eastern Kentucky. McConnell downplays the issue of climate change, saying even if people believe it’s a serious threat, the U.S. acting along on carbon emissions will do nothing to resolve the problem.

An Early Role Model

McConnell says the first prominent person to make a lasting impression on him was former U.S. Senator and Ambassador John Sherman Cooper. Early in his career, McConnell served as a Capitol Hill intern for the Somerset Republican. He describes Cooper as a role model of statesmanship.