Addison Mitchell McConnell Jr. (born February 20, 1942) is an American politician serving as Kentucky's senior United States senator and as Senate Majority Leader. McConnell is the second Kentuckian to lead his party in the Senate, the longest-serving U.S. senator for Kentucky in history, and the longest-serving leader of U.S. Senate Republicans in history.
McConnell was first elected to the Senate in 1984 and has been re-elected five times since. During the 1998 and 2000 election cycles, he was chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. McConnell was elected as Majority Whip in the 108th Congress and was re-elected to the post in 2004. In November 2006, he was elected Senate Minority Leader; he held that post until 2015, when Republicans took control of the Senate and he became Senate Majority Leader.
McConnell was known as a pragmatist and a moderate Republican early in his political career, but shifted to the right over time. He led opposition to stricter campaign finance laws, culminating in the Supreme Court ruling that partially overturned the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (McCain-Feingold) in 2009. During the Obama administration, McConnell worked to withhold Republican support for major presidential initiatives, made frequent use of the filibuster, and blocked many of Obama's judicial nominees, including Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. McConnell later described his decision to block the Garland nomination as "the most consequential decision I've made in my entire public career". Under McConnell's leadership of the Senate, Obama saw the fewest judicial nominees confirmed in the final two years of a presidency since 1951–52. McConnell was included in the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world in 2015.
McConnell endorsed Rand Paul in the 2016 Republican primaries before ultimately supporting then-presumptive nominee Donald Trump. In 2016, after being approached by U.S. intelligence community officials, McConnell declined to give a bipartisan statement with President Obama warning Russia not to interfere in the upcoming election. During the Trump administration, Senate Republicans, under McConnell's leadership, broke records on the number of judicial nominees confirmed; among those nominees were Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh who were confirmed to the Supreme Court.
McConnell is of Scots-Irish and English descent, the son of Addison Mitchell McConnell and his wife, Julia Odene "Dean" (Shockley). McConnell was born on February 20, 1942, in Sheffield, Alabama, and grew up in nearby Athens. His ancestors emigrated from County Down, Ireland, to North Carolina.
McConnell's upper left leg was paralyzed by a polio attack at the age of two. He received treatment at the Warm Springs Institute in Georgia, which potentially saved him from being disabled for the rest of his life. McConnell stated that his family "almost went broke" because of costs related to his illness.
When he was eight, McConnell moved with his family from Athens to Augusta, Georgia, when his father, who was in the Army, was stationed at Fort Gordon. In 1956, his family moved to Louisville, where he attended duPont Manual High School. McConnell was elected student council president at his high school during his junior year. He graduated with honors from the University of Louisville with a B.A. in political science in 1964. He was president of the Student Council of the College of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity. He has maintained strong ties to his alma mater and is still "a rabid fan of the U of L Cardinals football and basketball teams."
In March 1967, shortly before the expiration of his educational draft deferment upon graduation from law school, McConnell enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve as a private at Louisville, Kentucky. This was a coveted position because the Reserve units were mostly kept out of combat during the Vietnam War.:11–12 His first day of training at Fort Knox was July 9, 1967, two days after taking the bar exam, and his last day was August 15, 1967. Shortly after his arrival, he was diagnosed with optic neuritis and was deemed medically unfit for military service. After five weeks at Fort Knox, he was honorably discharged. His brief time in service has repeatedly been put at issue by his political opponents during his electoral campaigns. Although McConnell has allowed reporters to examine parts of his military record and take notes, he has refused to allow copies to be made or to disclose his entire record, despite calls by his opponents to do so. His time in service has also been the subject of criticism because his discharge was accelerated after his father placed a call to Senator John Sherman Cooper, who then sent a wire to the commanding general at Fort Knox on August 10, advising that "Mitchell [is] anxious to clear post in order to enroll in NYU".:11-12 He was allowed to leave post just five days later, though McConnell maintains that no one helped him with his enlistment into or discharge from the reserves. :11-12 According to McConnell, he struggled through the exercises at basic training and was sent to a doctor for a physical examination, which revealed McConnell's optic neuritis. McConnell did not attend NYU.:11-12
From 1968 to 1970, McConnell worked as an aide to Senator Marlow Cook (R-KY), managing a legislative department consisting of five members as well as assisting with speech writing and constituent services.
In 1971, McConnell returned from Washington, D.C., to Louisville, where he worked for Tom Emberton's candidacy for Governor of Kentucky, which was unsuccessful. McConnell attempted to run for a seat in the state legislature but was disqualified because he did not meet the residency requirements for the office. He then went to work for a law firm for a few years. During the same time period, he taught a night class on political science at the University of Louisville.
In October 1974, McConnell returned to Washington, D.C. to fill a position as Deputy Assistant Attorney General under President Gerald R. Ford, where he worked alongside Robert Bork, Laurence Silberman, and Antonin Scalia.
In 1977, McConnell was elected the Jefferson County Judge/Executive, the former top political office in Jefferson County, Kentucky. He was re-elected in 1981 and occupied this office until his election to the U.S. Senate in 1984.
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In the 1984 Senate election, McConnell defeated his Democratic opponent, Walter "Dee" Huddleston, by about 5,100 votes. He was the first Republican to win a statewide election in Kentucky since 1968, and benefited from the popularity of President Ronald Reagan, up for re-election, who was supported by 60% of Kentucky voters in the same year. McConnell began his first term as a junior senator in 1985.
From 1997 to 2001, McConnell was chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the body charged with securing electoral victories for Republicans. Republicans maintained control of the Senate after both elections. He was first elected as Majority Whip in the 108th Congress and was 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 Minority Leader. After Republicans took control of the Senate following the 2014 Senate elections, McConnell became the Senate Majority Leader. In June 2018, McConnell became the longest-serving Senate Republican leader in the history of the United States. McConnell is the second Kentuckian to lead his party in the Senate and is the longest-serving U.S. senator from Kentucky in history.
In his early years as a politician in Kentucky, McConnell was known as a pragmatist and a moderate Republican. Over time, he shifted to the right. According to ProPublica reporter Alex MacGillis's biography of McConnell, McConnell transformed "from a moderate Republican who supported abortion rights and public employee unions to the embodiment of partisan obstructionism and conservative orthodoxy on Capitol Hill."
In October 2010, McConnell said that "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." Asked whether this meant "endless, or at least frequent, confrontation with the president," McConnell clarified that "if [Obama is] willing to meet us halfway on some of the biggest issues, it's not inappropriate for us to do business with him." According to political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, "Facing off against Obama, [McConnell] worked to deny even minimal Republican support for major presidential initiatives—initiatives that were, as a rule, in keeping with the moderate model of decades past, and often with moderate Republican stances of a few years past." The New York Times noted early during Obama's administration that "on the major issues—not just health care, but financial regulation and the economic stimulus package, among others—Mr. McConnell has held Republican defections to somewhere between minimal and nonexistent, allowing him to slow the Democratic agenda if not defeat aspects of it." Under McConnell's leadership, Republicans threatened repeatedly to force the United States to default on its debt; McConnell saying that he learned from the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis that "it's a hostage that's worth ransoming."
McConnell delayed and obstructed health care reform and banking reform, which were the two landmark pieces of legislation that Democrats sought to pass – and succeeded in passing – early in Obama's tenure. According to political scientists Eric Schickler and Gregory J. Wawro: "By slowing action even on measures supported by many Republicans, McConnell capitalized on the scarcity of floor time, forcing Democratic leaders into difficult trade-offs concerning which measures were worth pursuing. That is, given that Democrats had just two years with sizeable majorities to enact as much of their agenda as possible, slowing the Senate's ability to process even routine measures limited the sheer volume of liberal bills that could be adopted." In 2012, McConnell proposed a measure allowing President Obama to raise the debt ceiling, hoping that some Democratic senators would oppose the measure, thus demonstrating disunity among Democrats. However, all Democratic senators supported the proposal, which led McConnell to filibuster his own proposal. By 2013, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid eliminated the filibuster for all presidential nominations except the Supreme Court, nearly half of all invocations to cloture (to end a filibuster) in the history of the Senate had occurred during Obama's presidency.
McConnell's refusal to hold Senate hearings on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland during Obama's final year in office was described by political scientists and legal scholars as "unprecedented", a "culmination of this confrontational style," a "blatant abuse of constitutional norms," and a "classic example of constitutional hardball."
McConnell has been widely described as having engaged in obstructionism during the Obama presidency. Political scientists have referred to McConnell's use of the filibuster as "constitutional hardball", referring to the misuse of procedural tools in a way that undermines democracy. As part of his obstruction strategy and as the leading Republican senator, McConnell confronted and pressured other Republican senators who were willing to negotiate with Democrats and the Obama administration. According to Purdue University political scientist Bert A. Rockman, "pure party line voting has been evident now for some time ... but rarely has the tactic of "oppositionism" been so boldly stated as McConnell did." According to University of Texas legal scholar Sanford Levinson, McConnell learned that obstruction and Republican unity were the optimal ways to ensure Republican gains in upcoming elections after he observed how Democratic cooperation with the Bush administration on No Child Left Behind and Medicare Part D helped Bush's 2004 re-election. Levinson noted, "McConnell altogether rationally... concluded that Republicans have nothing to gain, as a political party, from collaborating in anything that the president could then claim as an achievement." Hacker and Pierson describe the rationale behind McConnell's filibusters, "Filibusters left no fingerprints. When voters heard that legislation had been "defeated," journalists rarely highlighted that this defeat meant a minority had blocked a majority. Not only did this strategy produce an atmosphere of gridlock and dysfunction; it also chewed up the Senate calendar, restricting the range of issues on which Democrats could progress... Like Gingrich, McConnell had found a serious flaw in the code of American democracy: Our distinctive political system gives an antigovernment party with a willingness to cripple governance an enormous edge." A number of political scientists, historians, and legal scholars have characterized McConnell's obstructionism and constitutional hardball as contributors to democratic erosion in the United States. In a book on the merits and pitfalls of partisanship, Dartmouth political scientist Russell Muirhead characterized McConnell's obstructionism as a corrosive form of partisanship, as the interests of the party displaced the pursuit of policy.
McConnell has gained a reputation as a skilled political strategist and tactician. However, this reputation dimmed after Republicans failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in 2017 during consolidated Republican control of government.
In 2015, Time listed McConnell as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
In April 2019, McConnell criticized proposed legislation by House Democrats such as the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. McConnell declared that if he was still Senate majority leader after the 2020 elections: "none of those things are going to pass the Senate. They won't even be voted on. So think of me as the Grim Reaper. None of that stuff is going to pass. None of it." In June 2019, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi criticized McConnell for withholding votes on measures already passed by the House. In a poster titled "McConnell's Graveyard", the gravestones of House legislation appear, including the For the People Act of 2019, the Equality Act, DREAMers and TPS, Paycheck Fairness Act, Gun Violence Prevention, and Climate Action. McConnell responded that Pelosi was "absolutely right"; he added, "I am indeed the 'Grim Reaper' when it comes to the socialist agenda that they have been ginning up".
On the eve of the impeachment trial of President Trump, Paul Kane of The Washington Post called McConnell "the most powerful majority leader in at least thirty years" and was described as having a level of influence equivalent to that of Lyndon B. Johnson when he served in that position.
In 2010, McConnell voted against the Zadroga Act, which would have provided medical treatment for 9/11 first responders who experienced health complications related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. McConnell refused to support the bill unless the Bush tax cuts were extended first. In 2015, McConnell blocked legislation seeking to replenish funds for the 9/11 responders, so that it could not go up for a vote in the Senate. McConnell refused to support the bill unless legislation was also passed to lift a U.S. ban on oil exports. Former Daily Show host Jon Stewart, a prominent advocate for the bill, singled out McConnell's role, saying McConnell did not care about anything "other than politics" amid reports that McConnell was holding the bill hostage to get Democrats to meet his demands on unrelated issues.
In 2019, Jon Stewart gave emotional testimony in the House of Representatives, asking for the 9/11 responders' health care funds to be replenished anew. Shortly thereafter, the House approved legislation to renew the health care funds. Stewart subsequently criticized McConnell for not prioritizing passage of the bill in the Senate, saying the issue "has never been dealt with compassionately by Senator McConnell" and that only "under intense lobbying and public shaming has he even deigned to move on it." McConnell responded, saying the legislation would be addressed in the Senate and that "it sounds to me like he is looking for some way to take offense."
McConnell initially endorsed fellow Kentucky Senator Rand Paul during the 2016 presidential campaign. Following Paul's withdrawal from the race in February 2016, McConnell endorsed presumptive nominee Donald Trump on February 4, 2016. However, McConnell disagreed with Trump on multiple subsequent occasions. In May 2016, after Trump suggested that federal judge Gonzalo P. Curiel was biased against Trump because of his Mexican heritage, McConnell responded, "I don't agree with what he (Trump) had to say. This is a man who was born in Indiana. All of us came here from somewhere else." In July 2016, after Trump had criticized the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, a Muslim-American soldier who was killed in Iraq, McConnell stated, "All Americans should value the patriotic service of the patriots who volunteer to selflessly defend us in the armed services." On October 7, 2016, following the Donald Trump Access Hollywood controversy, McConnell stated: "As the father of three daughters, I strongly believe that Trump needs to apologize directly to women and girls everywhere, and take full responsibility for the utter lack of respect for women shown in his comments on that tape."
In October 2017, in response to White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and other Trump allies blaming McConnell for stalling the Trump administration's legislation, McConnell stated that he trusted President Trump as a negotiating partner and cited the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch as an Associate Justice as proof that the Senate was supportive of Trump's agenda.
With regard to the U.S. response to intelligence findings that Russia was responsible for cyberattacks undertaken to influence the American 2016 election, McConnell said in December 2016 that he supported "investigating American intelligence findings that Moscow intervened" Prior to the election, however, when FBI Director James Comey, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, and other officials met with the leadership of both parties to make the case for a bipartisan statement warning Russia that such actions would not be tolerated, "McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics".
In November 2017, McConnell opposed legislation that would have protected Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. In April 2018, McConnell reiterated his opposition. Later that month, McConnell thwarted a bipartisan legislative effort to protect Mueller's investigation. In March 2018, after President Trump criticized Mueller for hiring investigators who were registered as Democrats, McConnell praised Mueller's selection as Special Counsel. In June 2018, McConnell said the following regarding the Mueller investigation: "they ought to wrap it up." In November 2018, McConnell reiterated that legislation protecting the Mueller investigation was unnecessary.
After the Special Counsel investigation concluded that there was "sweeping and systematic" Russian interference in the 2016 elections, several legislative measures (some bipartisan) were proposed to tighten election security. These bills included the Secure Elections Act, the Protecting the Right to Independent and Democratic Elections (PRIDE) Act, the Protecting American Votes and Elections (PAVE) Act, and the Honest Ads Act. As of mid-June 2019, McConnell has blocked such measures from being voted upon in the Senate, with The New York Times reporting that "McConnell, long the Senate's leading ideological opponent to federal regulation of elections, has told colleagues in recent months that he has no plans to consider stand-alone legislation on the matter this term".
A 2012 poll and a 2016 poll each found that McConnell had the lowest home-state approval rating of any sitting senator. With a 49% disapproval rate in 2017, McConnell had the highest disapproval rating of all senators. In September 2019, the Morning Consult found that his approval rating had been underwater since the first quarter of 2017, when it was 44% positive and 47% negative. The best rating since that time was in the fourth quarter of 2018, when he had a 38% positive rating and a 47% negative rating among Kentuckians. At that time he was briefly not the least popular Senator, and was surpassed by Senators Claire McCaskill and Jeff Flake. As of the second quarter of 2019, however, McConnell's ratings were 36% positive and 50% negative. He netted -56 among Democrats, +29 among Republicans, and -24 among Independents. An average of polls by the Economist/YouGov, Politico/Morning Consult, and Harvard-Harris from the end of July through August 2019 (7/31–8/27), was 23% favorable and 48% unfavorable (-25.0 spread). In 2020 according to Morning Consult, Susan Collins edged out McConnell with a 52% unfavorable rating from Maine voters compared to 50% unfavorable for McConnell.
McConnell led opposition to stricter campaign finance regulations, with the Lexington Herald Leader describing it as McConnell's "pet issue." He has argued that campaign finance regulations reduce participation in political campaigns and protect incumbents from competition. In 1990, he led a filibuster against a campaign finance reform bill. He spearheaded the movement against the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (known since 1995 as the "McCain–Feingold bill" and from 1989 to 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, the latter of which ruled part of the act unconstitutional. McConnell has been an advocate for free speech at least as far back as the early 1970s when he was teaching night courses at the University of Louisville. "No issue has shaped his career more than the intersection of campaign financing and free speech," political reporter Robert Costa wrote in 2012. In a recording of a 2014 fundraiser McConnell expressed his disapproval of the McCain-Feingold law, saying, "The worst day of my political life was when President George W. Bush signed McCain-Feingold into law in the early part of his first Administration."
On January 2, 2013, the Public Campaign Action Fund, a liberal nonprofit group that backs stronger campaign finance regulation, released a report highlighting eight instances from McConnell's political career in which a vote or a blocked vote (filibuster), coincided with an influx of campaign contributions to McConnell's campaign.
In December 2018, McConnell opposed a Democratic resolution that overturned IRS guidance to reduce the amount of donor information certain tax-exempt groups would have to give the IRS, saying, "In a climate that is increasingly hostile to certain kinds of political expression and open debate, the last thing Washington needs to do is to chill the exercise of free speech and add to the sense of intimidation."
Prior to his Senate run, McConnell favored campaign finance reform, describing money in politics as a "cancer" in 1973.
In late 2018, McConnell stalled the passage of a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill in the Senate. As of December 2018, McConnell had yet to endorse the prison and sentencing reform bill. President Trump had endorsed the bill, saying "Really good Criminal Justice Reform has a true shot at major bipartisan support ... Would be a major victory for ALL!" Democratic Senators Dick Durbin and Kamala Harris said that McConnell was the only impediment to the bill's passage. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley said, "If McConnell will bring this up, it will pass overwhelmingly." The bill was expected to easily pass the House.
In 2010, McConnell requested earmarks for the defense contractor BAE Systems while the company was under investigation by the Department of Justice for alleged bribery of foreign officials.:62
In June 2011, McConnell introduced a Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment. The amendment would require two-thirds votes in Congress to increase taxes or for federal spending to exceed the current year's tax receipts or 18% of the prior year's GDP. The amendment specifies situations when these requirements would be waived.
During the Great Recession, as Congress and the Obama administration negotiated reforms of the banking system, McConnell played an important role in preventing the addition of a provision requiring banks to prefund a reserve intended to be used to rescue insolvent banks in the future. When there appeared to be bipartisan and majority support for such a bank-funded reserve, McConnell criticized the provision, referred to it as a "bailout fund" and turned "opposition to it a litmus test for Senate Republicans", according to one study. According to the study, "McConnell's attack, along with his insistence that opposition would be a matter of party principle, undermined the fragile coalition supporting the prefunded reserve, and the White House – fearing that advocating a bank levy as part of the president's broader reform would enable opponents to kill the whole bill – shelved the idea."
After two intercessions to get federal grants for Alltech, whose president T. Pearse Lyons made subsequent campaign contributions to McConnell, to build a plant in Kentucky for producing ethanol from algae, corncobs, and switchgrass, McConnell criticized President Obama in 2012 for twice mentioning biofuel production from algae in a speech touting his "all-of-the-above" energy policy.
In 2014, McConnell voted to help break Ted Cruz's filibuster attempt against a debt limit increase and then against the bill itself. In 2014, McConnell opposed the Paycheck Fairness Act (a bill that "punishes employers for retaliating against workers who share wage information, puts the justification burden on employers as to why someone is paid less and allows workers to sue for punitive damages of wage discrimination") because it would "line the pockets of trial lawyers", not help women.
Under McConnell, the Republican-led Senate voted to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
In 2018, McConnell called for entitlement cuts and raised concern about government deficits. He blamed the deficit on government spending, and dismissed criticisms of the tax cuts bill he passed the year prior, which added more than $1 trillion in debt.
In 1992, after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had concluded that human activities significantly contribute to climate change, McConnell stated that there was "no conclusive evidence of significant long-term global warming", that there was no scientific consensus on the subject, misleadingly claimed that scientists were alarmed about global cooling in the 1970s, and that climate mitigation efforts would be "the most expensive attack on jobs and the economy in this country." In 2014, McConnell continued to express skepticism that climate change was a problem, telling the Cincinnati Enquirer editorial board, "I'm not a scientist, I am interested in protecting Kentucky's economy, I'm interested in having low cost electricity." McConnell was the sponsor of the Gas Price Reduction Act of 2008, which would have allowed states to engage in increased offshore and domestic oil exploration. In 2015, McConnell encouraged state governors not to comply with the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan, which was aimed at tackling climate change.
In December 2014, McConnell stated that the incoming Republican-controlled Senate's first priority would be approving the Keystone XL pipeline, announcing his intent to allow a vote on legislation in favor of the pipeline by John Hoeven and his hope "that senators on both sides will offer energy-related amendments, but there will be no effort to micromanage the amendment process." McConnell disputed that the Keystone XL pipeline would harm the environment by citing fellow Republican senator Lisa Murkowski's claim that the US already had 19 pipelines in effect and multiple studies "showing over and over again no measurable harm to the environment." He furthered that the pipeline would create high paying jobs and had received bipartisan support. In February 2015, President Obama vetoed the Keystone XL bill on the grounds that it conflicted "with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest". The following month, the Senate was unable to reach a two-thirds majority to override the veto, McConnell afterward stating that the veto represented "a victory for partisanship and for powerful special interests" and "a defeat for jobs, infrastructure, and the middle class."
In November 2016, McConnell requested that President-elect Trump prioritize the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline upon taking office during a meeting and told reporters that President Obama "sat on the Keystone pipeline throughout his entire eight years, even though his own State Department said it had no measurable impact on climate."
McConnell was one of 22 Republican senators to sign a letter urging President Donald Trump to have the United States withdraw from the Paris Agreement. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, McConnell has received over $1.5 million from the oil and gas industry since 2012.
McConnell opposed the Flag Desecration Amendment to the Constitution in 2000. McConnell offered an amendment to the measure that would have made flag desecration illegal as a statutory crime, not by amending the Constitution.
In 1985, McConnell backed anti-apartheid legislation with Chris Dodd. McConnell went on to engineer new IMF funding to "faithfully protect aid to Egypt and Israel," and "promote free elections and better treatment of Muslim refugees" in Myanmar, Cambodia and Macedonia. According to a March 2014 article in Politico, "McConnell was a 'go-to guy' for presidents of both parties seeking foreign aid," but he has lost some of his idealism and has evolved to be more wary of foreign assistance.
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 outside the United States without obtaining a warrant.
In April 2017, McConnell organized a White House briefing of all senators conducted by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Defense Secretary James Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford regarding threats from the North Korean government. In May 2018, after President Trump called off the North Korea–United States summit, McConnell said that Trump "wanted to make sure that North Koreans understood he was serious, willing to engage, provided they didn't continue to play these kinds of games as they've historically done with other administrations and gotten away with it" and that further progress would be staked on the subsequent actions of North Korea. Trump shortly thereafter announced that the summit could resume as scheduled following a "very nice statement" he received from North Korea and that talks were now resuming. At the Greater Louisville Inc. Congressional Summit, McConnell stated that North Korea would likely pursue "sanctions and other relief" while giving up as little as possible; he added that to achieve a successful negotiation, Trump would "have to not want the deal too much".
In August 2018, McConnell said Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been accused of ignoring the genocide of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim minority, could not be blamed for atrocities committed by the Myanmar's armed forces.
In December 2014, McConnell announced his opposition to the Obama administration's intent to normalize American relations with Cuba, calling it "a mistake" and that Congress would be able to intervene due to multiple sanctions having been implemented into law along with any American ambassador to Cuba requiring Senate approval. McConnell noted the US normalizing relations with Vietnam as its government continued repressing denizens as an example of American engagement sometimes not working.
In a July 2015 interview, McConnell stated that Obama believed that the US would "get a positive result" by merely engaging Cuba and that he saw no evidence in Cuba changing its behavior.
In March 2016, following Obama's travel to Cuba, McConnell said that for Obama "to go down there and act like this is a normal regime, has been embarrassing" while stating that the president believed engagement with Cuba was "going to improve things." After the death of Fidel Castro later that year, McConnell said the passing was an opportunity for the Cuban government to reform itself toward the principles of freedom and democracy, adding that "the oppression" Castro imposed remained in Cuba despite his death.
In August 2015, McConnell charged President Obama with treating his rallying for support of the Iran nuclear deal "like a political campaign" and stated his preference for senators spending time in their seats while debating the deal: "Demonize your opponents, gin up the base, get Democrats all angry and, you know, rally around the president. To me, it's a different kind of issue." In a September interview, McConnell stated that the battle over the Iran nuclear deal possibly would have to wait until after the Obama administration was over while vowing to tee another vote on the matter to show bipartisan opposition to the matter. He said the Iran nuclear deal would be a defining issue in the following presidential election in the event that the Republicans still did not have enough votes to overcome a filibuster from Democrats and called the deal "an agreement between Barack Obama and the Iranian regime."
In January 2016, as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee weighed consideration of sanctions on North Korea after its test of a nuclear device, McConnell called Iran "an obvious rogue regime with which we have this outrageous deal that they don't intend to comply with" and confirmed the intent of the Senate to look into Iran. In May, McConnell called for Democrats to vote for an underlying spending bill ahead of authorizing the appropriations process to move forward as Democrats opposed the measure on the grounds of a Republican amendment related to Iran. After their third filibuster on the bill, McConnell set up a vote on both the Iran amendment and spending bill.
In May 2018, after President Trump announced the United States was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, McConnell said the deal was "a flawed deal and we can do better" and stated congressional optimism to seeing what Trump would propose in its place.
On 3 January 2020, the high-level Iranian General, Qasem Soleimani, was killed, along with nine others, in a targeted air strike by the United States. The event considerably heightened existing tensions between the two countries. McConnell supported the attack, referring to Soleimani as "Iran's master terrorist".
In October 2002, McConnell voted for the Iraq Resolution, which authorized military action against Iraq. McConnell supported the Iraq War troop surge of 2007. In 2010, McConnell "accused the White House of being more concerned about a messaging strategy than prosecuting a war against terrorism."
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 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 April 21, 2009, McConnell delivered a speech to the Senate criticizing President Obama's plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba, and questioned the additional 81 million dollar White House request for funds to transfer prisoners to the United States.
In July 2011, following the acquittal of Casey Anthony in the murder of her daughter Caylee, McConnell stated the trial showed "how difficult is to get a conviction in a U.S. court" and advocated for foreign-born terrorists to be sent to Guantanamo Bay.
McConnell is a long-standing supporter of Israel. In January 2017, McConnell signed onto a resolution authored by Marco Rubio and Ben Cardin objecting to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories as a violation of international law, and calling for all American presidents to "uphold the practice of vetoing all United Nations Security Council resolutions that seek to insert the Council into the peace process, recognize unilateral Palestinian actions including declaration of a Palestinian state, or dictate terms and a timeline for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
McConnell said the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement "is a clear example of rising anti-Israel sentiment in our country which is very disturbing". In 2019, Senator Marco Rubio, who cosponsored the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, introduced the Combating BDS Act, whose original cosponsors include McConnell. The bill is meant to do exactly what the Israel Anti-Boycott Act was meant to do, and enable states to pass anti-boycott legislation with federal blessing.
In December 2010, McConnell was one of 26 senators who voted against the ratification of New Start, a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russian Federation obliging both countries to have no more than 1,550 strategic warheads as well as 700 launchers deployed during the next seven years along with providing a continuation of on-site inspections that halted when START I expired the previous year. It was the first arms treaty with Russia in eight years.
In 2012, he supported the Magnitsky Act that has allowed the U.S. government to sanction those who it sees as human rights offenders, freezing their assets, and ban them from entering the United States.
On March 27, 2014, McConnell introduced the United States International Programming to Ukraine and Neighboring Regions bill, which would provide additional funding and instructions to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in response to the 2014 Crimea crisis.
In September 2016, McConnell was one of 34 senators to sign a letter to United States Secretary of State John Kerry advocating for the United States using "all available tools to dissuade Russia from continuing its airstrikes in Syria" from an Iranian airbase near the city of Hamadan, and stating that there should be clear enforcement by the US of the airstrikes violating "a legally binding Security Council Resolution" on Iran.
In July 2017, McConnell voted in favor of the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act that placed sanctions on Russia together with Iran and North Korea.
In January 2018, Senators Marco Rubio and Chris Van Hollen introduced a bipartisan bill that would impose new sanctions on Russia in the event the country attempted interfering in another American election. In July, McConnell mentioned the bill as one option on the table for the Senate and asked the Banking and Foreign Relations panels to hold new hearings on the implementation of the bipartisan Russia sanctions bill from the previous year in addition to suggesting potential further steps lawmakers could pursue as part of efforts to counter Russian malfeasance ahead of that year's midterm elections.
In September 2016, the Senate voted 71 to 27 against the Chris Murphy–Rand Paul resolution to block the $1.15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Arabian-led coalition in Yemen has been accused of war crimes. Following the vote, McConnell said: "I think it's important to the United States to maintain as good a relationship with Saudi Arabia as possible." In November 2018, McConnell stated that the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi "is completely abhorrent to everything the United States holds dear and stands for in the world", reasoning that this contrast warranted a response from the US. He later expressed opposition to a complete fracture in relations between the US and Saudi Arabia as not in the "best interest long term" and added that Saudi Arabia had been a "great" ally of the US as it related to Iran. On December 12, McConnell advocated for the Senate to reject a measure authored by Bernie Sanders and Mike Lee that would end American support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, calling the resolution "neither precise enough or prudent enough." McConnell endorsed a resolution by Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, which if enacted would charge crown prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman with Khashoggi's death, as doing "a good job capturing bipartisan concerns about the war in Yemen and the behavior of Saudi partners more broadly without triggering an extended debate over war powers while we hasten to finish all our other work."
Also in September 2016, both the Senate and the House of Representatives overrode President Obama's veto to pass the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which targets Saudi Arabia, into law. Despite McConnell voting to override the President, McConnell would criticize JASTA within a day of the bill's passing, saying that it might have "unintended ramifications". McConnell appeared to blame the White House regarding this as he quoted that there was "failure to communicate early about the potential consequences" of JASTA, and said he told Obama that JASTA "was an example of an issue that we should have talked about much earlier". In vetoing the bill, Obama had provided three reasons for objecting to JASTA: that the courts would be less effective than "national security and foreign policy professionals" in responding to a foreign government supporting terrorism, that it would upset "longstanding international principles regarding sovereign immunity", and that it would complicate international relations.
In January 2016, McConnell delivered a Senate floor speech endorsing the Senate voting to approve of a bill requiring additional FBI background checks and individual sign-offs from three high-ranking federal officials before refugees from either Syria or Iraq were admitted to the United States.
In April 2018, following the missile strikes against Syria carried out by the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, McConnell said he found it "an appropriate and measured response to the use of chemical weapons" when asked of the Trump administration's legal justification for the authorization of military action.
In January 2019, McConnell joined Marco Rubio, Jim Risch, and Cory Gardner in introducing legislation that would impose sanctions on the government of President of Syria Bashar al-Assad and bolster American cooperation with Israel and Jordan. McConnell stated that the legislation spoke "directly to some critical American interests in that part of the world" and affirmed "that the United States needs to walk the walk and authorize military assistance, cooperative missile defense as well as loan guarantees." McConnell introduced an amendment warning the Trump administration against "precipitous" withdrawals of American troops in Syria and Afghanistan, saying he chose to introduce it "so the Senate can speak clearly and directly about the importance of our nation's ongoing missions in Afghanistan and Syria."The amendment was approved 70-26 on February 4.
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 Democratic Party's plan for financial reform is actually a way to institute "endless taxpayer funded bailouts for big Wall Street banks", said McConnell. He expressed concern 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 ran an editorial 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." According to one tally, McConnell's largest donor from the period from January 1, 2009, to September 30, 2015, was Bob McNair, contributing $1,502,500.
The United States federal government shut down between October 1 and 17, 2013 following a failure to enact legislation appropriating funds for fiscal year 2014 nor a continuing resolution for the interim authorization of appropriations for fiscal year 2014 in time. During a fundraising retreat in Sea Island, Georgia weeks later, McConnell stated that Republicans would not default on the US's debt or shut down the government early the following year, when stop-gap government funding and the debt ceiling were slated to be voted on again. McConnell furthered that Republicans were willing to combat tactics of the party's wing that was opposed to the establishment in addition to responding to individuals who believed words such as "negotiate" and "compromise" were bad things.
In July 2018, McConnell stated that funding for the Mexico–United States border wall would likely have to wait until the midterms had concluded, President Trump tweeting two days later that he was willing to allow a government shutdown. The August approval of a third minibus package of spending bills was seen as a victory for McConnell in his attempts to prevent another government shutdown.
From December 22, 2018 until January 25, 2019, the federal government was shut down when Congress refused to give in to Trump's demand for $5.7 billion in federal funds for a U.S.–Mexico border wall. In December 2018, the Republican-controlled Senate unanimously passed an appropriations bill without wall funding, and the bill appeared likely to be approved by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Trump. After Trump faced heavy criticism from some right-wing media outlets and pundits for appearing to back down on his campaign promise to "build the wall", he announced that he would not sign any appropriations bill that did not fund its construction. During this shutdown, McConnell blocked the Senate from voting on appropriations legislation, and said it was not his place to mediate between the Senate and Trump. Privately, McConnell had advised Trump against initiating the shutdown. Democrats criticized McConnell for not putting appropriations legislation up for a vote, noting that the Republican-controlled Senate unanimously passed an appropriations bill without wall funding and that Senate could override Trump's veto. By January 23, McConnell had blocked four Senate bills to reopen the government and a bill funding the Homeland Security Department through February 8. McConnell called for Democrats to support a Trump administration-backed measure that included $5.7 billion in wall funding as well as a three-year extension of protections for DACA recipients and some Temporary Protected Status holders, adding, "The president went out of his way to include additional items that have been priority areas for Democrats." Privately, other Republican Senators pressured McConnell to stop blocking appropriations legislation, with Republican Senator Ron Johnson reportedly telling McConnell, "This is your fault" at a Senate Republicans luncheon. The shutdown ended on January 25, when President Trump signed a three-week funding measure reopening the government until February 15 without any funds for a border wall. This was the longest government shutdown in American history.
On February 14, 2019, ahead of the Senate approving legislation preventing another partial government shutdown and providing funding for President Trump's U.S.-Mexico border, McConnell announced that President Trump "has indicated he's prepared to sign the bill" and would "be issuing a national emergency declaration at the same time." McConnell said that he had indicated to Trump that he supported Trump's national emergency declaration.
On the weekend of January 19–21, 2013, the McConnell for Senate campaign emailed and robo-called gun-rights supporters telling them that "President Obama and his team are doing everything in their power to restrict your constitutional right to keep and bear arms." McConnell also said, "I'm doing everything in my power to protect your 2nd Amendment rights." On April 17, 2013, McConnell voted against expanding background checks for gun purchases.
In January 2016, after President Obama announced new executive actions to combat gun violence, McConnell charged Obama with playing politics and panned the administration's record on prosecuting gun law violations as "abysmal". McConnell stated that examinations of the mass shootings "sort of underscores the argument that if somebody there had had a weapon fewer people would have died" and predicted Obama's proposals would fail to keep "guns out of the hands of criminals". In June, after the Orlando nightclub shooting occurred, then the deadliest mass shooting by a lone gunman in American history, four partisan gun measures came up for vote in the Senate and were all rejected. McConnell opined that Democrats were using the shooting as a political talking point while Republicans John Cornyn and Chuck Grassley were "pursuing real solutions that can help keep Americans safer from the threat of terrorism."
In October 2017, following the Las Vegas shooting, McConnell told reporters that the investigation into the incident "has not even been completed, and I think it's premature to be discussing legislative solutions if there are any." He stated that he believed it "particularly inappropriate to politicize an event like this" and the issue of tax reform should remain the priority while the investigation was ongoing.
On Tuesday, August 6, 2019, a group of clergymen appeared outside of McConnell's office urging the Republican Senate majority leader to take action after two mass shootings (in El Paso and Dayton) in 2019 within the past weeks. About two dozen religious leaders called the Coalition of Concerned Clergy prayed and voiced their stand on gun violence. Among those was Reverend Rob Schenck, a founding signer of an evangelical Christian pledge to take action on gun violence and Bishop Mariann Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C., a longtime advocate for gun violence prevention. Other protesters gathered outside of McConnell's Kentucky home chanting death threats and advocating violence against the Senator. One protester asked for bystanders to stab McConnell in the heart. When videos of the protesters were posted on McConnell's Twitter feed by his staff, his account was temporarily suspended for the use of violent imagery.
McConnell led efforts against President Barack Obama's health care reform, ensuring that no Republican senator supported Obama's 2009–2010 health care reform legislation. McConnell explained the reasoning behind withholding Republican support as, "It was absolutely critical that everybody be together because if the proponents of the bill were able to say it was bipartisan, it tended to convey to the public that this is O.K., they must have figured it out." McConnell voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly called ObamaCare or the Affordable Care Act) in December 2009, and he voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. In 2014, McConnell repeated his call for the full repeal of Obamacare and said that Kentucky should be allowed to keep the state's health insurance exchange website, Kynect, or set up a similar system. McConnell is part of the group of 13 senators drafting the Senate version of the AHCA behind closed doors. The Senator refused over 15 patient advocacy organization's requests to meet with his congressional staff to discuss the legislation. This included groups like the American Heart Association, March of Dimes, American Lung Association. and the American Diabetes Association.
McConnell received the Kentucky Life Science Champion Awards for his work in promoting innovation in the life science sector.
After President Trump took office in January 2017, Senate Republicans, under McConnell's leadership, began to work on a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. They faced opposition from both Democrats and moderate Republicans, who claimed that the bill would leave too many people uninsured, and more conservative Republicans, who protested that the bill kept too many of the ACA's regulation and spending increases, and was thus not a full repeal. Numerous attempts at repeal failed. On June 27, after a meeting with President Trump at the White House, McConnell signaled improvements for the repeal and replacement: "We're not quite there. But I think we've got a really good chance of getting there. It'll just take us a little bit longer." During a Rotary Club lunch on July 6, McConnell said, "If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement, then some kind of action with regard to the private health insurance market must occur."
In October 2018, after the Trump administration joined Texas leaders and 19 other Republican state attorneys general in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the ACA, McConnell said it was no secret Republicans preferred to reboot their efforts in repealing the ACA and that he did not "fault the administration for trying to give us an opportunity to do this differently and to go in a different direction."
In February 2019, when Senator Sherrod Brown and Representative Lloyd Doggett unveiled legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, Brown stated that he hoped for a vote in the House that would "put the pressure" on McConnell.
In 2006, McConnell voted in favor of building a fence along the Mexican border.
In 2013, a bipartisan group of senators known as the Gang of Eight worked on immigration reform, introducing legislation that would establish a 13-year pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, with several security benchmarks that have to be met before they can obtain a green card, and require a mandatory workplace verification system for employers. McConnell opposed the bill on the grounds of it not including sufficient border-security measures that would prevent future illegal immigration.
In February 2018, McConnell stated his support for an immigration proposal that aligned with President Trump's framework, reasoning the bill which he said had "the best chance" of being signed into law. By this point, he considered the issue to have run its course over three days of floor debate.
In 2015, McConnell rebuked then-candidate Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslim immigration to the United States. In June 2018, minutes after the Supreme Court upheld the Trump administration's travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority countries in a 5–4 decision along ideological lines, McConnell tweeted a picture of him shaking hands with Neil Gorsuch.
As the House proceeded to begin public hearings on the impeachment of President Trump, McConnell on November 5, 2019, responded regarding a referral to the Senate for trial, "I will say I'm pretty sure how it's likely to end. ... If it were today, I don't think there's any question – it would not lead to a removal. So the question is how long does the Senate want to take? How long do the presidential candidates want to be here on the floor of the Senate instead of in Iowa and New Hampshire?"
On December 14, 2019, McConnell met with White House counsel Pat Cipollone and White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland, even as he acknowledged he had yet to meet Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer to discuss how the impeachment trial would be run. Later that day, McConnell declared that for Trump's impeachment trial, he would be in "total coordination with the White House counsel's office" and Trump's representatives: "Everything I do during this I'm coordinating with the White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president's position and our position as to how to handle this ... I'm going to take my cues from the president's lawyers." McConnell stated that the coordination would also pertain to whether witnesses would be called for the trial. While declaring that there was "no chance" that the Senate would convict Trump and remove him from office, McConnell revealed his wish that all Senate Republicans would acquit Trump of both articles of impeachment.
On December 17, 2019, McConnell rejected a request by Senate Democrats to call four witnesses for Trump's impeachment trial, because according to McConnell, the Senate's role was to "act as judge and jury", not investigate. Later that day, McConnell told the media: "I'm not an impartial juror [in this impeachment trial]. This is a political process. There's not anything judicial about it."
According to the New York Times, "From the moment Obama entered the White House, McConnell led Senate Republicans in a disciplined, sustained, at times underhanded campaign to deny the Democratic president the opportunity to appoint federal judges." In June 2009, following President Obama nominating Sonia Sotomayor as Associate Justice, McConnell and Jeff Sessions opined that Sotomayor's seventeen years as a federal judge and over 3,600 judicial opinions would require lengthy review and advocated against Democrats hastening the confirmation process. On July 17, McConnell announced that he would vote against Sotomayor's confirmation, citing her lack of respect for equal justice and furthering that her confirmation would mean there "would be no higher court to deter or prevent her from injecting into the law the various disconcerting principles that recur throughout her public statements." In August, McConnell called Sotomayor "a fine person with an impressive story and a distinguished background" but added that she "does not pass" the most fundamental test of being a judge capable of withholding her personal or political views while serving. Sotomayor was confirmed days later.
In May 2010, after President Obama nominated Elena Kagan to succeed the retiring John Paul Stevens, McConnell stated during a Senate speech that Americans wanted to make sure Kagan would be independent of influence from White House as an Associate Justice and noted Obama referring to Kagan as a friend of his in announcing her nomination. McConnell said it was his hope "that the Obama administration doesn't think the ideal Supreme Court nominee is someone who would rubber stamp its policies" and that question had been raised and needed answering. In a June interview, McConnell did not rule out the Kagan nomination being filibustered by Republican senators, noting that he had "never filibustered a Supreme Court nominee" and calling it premature to definitively answer if any of his fellow Republican senators would. On July 2, McConnell announced his opposition to Kagan's confirmation, citing her falling short of "meeting her own standard for providing the Senate helpful testimony", being "far from forthcoming in discussing her own views on basic principles of American constitutional law", and being unable to convince him that she "would suddenly constrain the ardent political advocacy that has marked much of her adult life." Kagan was confirmed the following month.
In 2014, Republicans gained control of the Senate, and McConnell became majority leader. The New York Times wrote that McConnell used this power to start "a near blockade of Obama's judicial appointments". According to The New York Times, Obama's final two years as president saw 18 district court judges and one appeals court judge confirmed, the fewest since President Harry S. Truman. In comparison, the final two years of the presidencies of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan had between 55 and 70 district court judges each confirmed and between 10 and 15 appeals court judges confirmed. According to the Los Angeles Times, McConnell brought about an "extraordinary two-year slowdown in judicial confirmations", detailing 22 confirmations of Obama's judicial nominees, the lowest since President Truman in 1951–1952. The number of federal judicial vacancies more than doubled comparing the figure near the end of Obama's term to the figure at the end of George W. Bush's term. According to the Congressional Research Service, on the first day of 2015, Obama had 3.9% of circuit court seats vacant, and 4.9% of district court seats vacant. By the first day of 2017, the figures had risen to 9.5% and 12.8% respectively. The 114th Congress confirmed 28.6% of Obama's circuit and district judge nominees; every other Congress in that research time frame (1977–2018, 95th to 115th Congress) had a confirmation rate of between 53% to 98%. Later in a 2019 interview, McConnell proudly credited himself for the large number of judicial vacancies created in the last two years of Obama's presidency.
On February 13, 2016, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died. Upon hearing the news, McConnell decided within an hour to prevent President Obama from filling the seat, and shortly thereafter issued a statement indicating that the U.S. Senate would not consider any Supreme Court nominee put forth by Obama. "'The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president,'" McConnell said. On March 16, 2016, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, a Judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, to the Supreme Court. Under McConnell's leadership, Senate Republicans refused to take any action on the Garland nomination. Garland's nomination expired on January 3, 2017, with the end of the 114th Congress. In January 2017, Republican President Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to fill the Court vacancy; Gorsuch's nomination was confirmed on April 7, 2017.
In an August 2016 speech in Kentucky, McConnell made reference to the Garland nomination; he said, "One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, 'Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.'" In April 2018, McConnell said the decision not to act upon the Garland nomination was "the most consequential decision I've made in my entire public career". Later that year, McConnell said that if a Supreme Court vacancy would happen during Trump's 2020 re-election year, he would not follow the precedent that he set in 2016 and let the winner of the presidential election nominate a justice. When McConnell launched his 2020 re-election bid in April 2019, his launch video highlighted the blocking of Garland.
On July 18, 2018, with Andy Oldham's Senate confirmation, Senate Republicans broke a record for largest number of appeals court judiciary confirmations "during a president's first two years". Oldham became the 23rd judge to be confirmed in said period. Addressing the issue, McConnell stated that considering "the things that we've been able to do with this Republican government the last year and a half", the most "long lasting, positive impact" they would have on the country would be the judiciary. The number of circuit court judges "confirmed during a president's first year" was broken in 2017, while the previous two-year record took place under President George H.W. Bush, and included 22 nominations.
In July 2018, after President Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to replace the retiring Anthony Kennedy as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, McConnell accused Democrats of creating an "extreme" distortion of Kavanaugh's record and compared their treatment of Kavanaugh to that of 1987 Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. In September 2018, Christine Blasey Ford went public with allegations that she had been sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh in 1982. On September 18, during a private meeting, McConnell warned Senate Republicans that there would be political fallout if they failed to confirm Kavanaugh. After a report came out of Democrats investigating a second allegation against Kavanaugh, McConnell stated, "I want to make it perfectly clear. ... Judge Kavanaugh will be voted on here on the Senate floor." Kavanaugh was confirmed on October 6. McConnell afterward admitted the confirmation process was a low point for the Senate, but added that there had "been an awful lot of bipartisan cooperation"; McConnell opined that claims that the Senate was "somehow broken over this [were] simply inaccurate."
In December 2010, after the Republicans gained control of the House in the 2010 midterm elections, McConnell delivered a Senate floor speech rebuking the intention of the Federal Communications Commission to instate net neutrality in its monthly commission meeting, saying the Obama administration was moving forward "with what could be a first step in controlling how Americans use the Internet by establishing federal regulations on its use" after having already nationalized healthcare, the auto industry, companies that could be insured, and loans for students and banks and called for the Internet to be left alone as it was "an invaluable resource." McConnell pledged that the incoming 112th United States Congress would push back against additional regulations.
In November 2014, after President Obama announced a series of proposals including regulations that he stated would keep the Internet open and free, McConnell released a statement saying the FCC would be wise to reject the proposal and charged Obama's plan with endorsing "more heavy-handed regulation that will stifle innovation."
In December 2017, after the FCC voted to repeal net neutrality, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced his intent to force a vote on the FCC's decision, a spokesman for McConnell confirming that the Majority Leader opposed Schumer's plan and favored the FCC's decision to repeal.
In February 2018, the Internet Association sent a letter to McConnell and Schumer endorsing the retention of net neutrality as "necessitated by, among other factors, the lack of competition in the broadband service market" and calling "for a bipartisan effort to establish permanent net neutrality rules for consumers, startups, established internet businesses, and internet service providers."
In June 2019, McConnell stated in an interview on The Ingraham Angle that he does not support statehood for Puerto Rico or the District of Columbia. He explained that Democrats in Congress "plan to make the District of Columbia a state – that'd give them two new Democratic senators – Puerto Rico a state, that would give them two more new Democratic senators". McConnell stated concern that this would lead to "full-bore socialism on the march in the House. And yeah, as long as I'm the majority leader of the Senate, none of that stuff is going anywhere".
According to a NPR investigation of McConnell's relationship with the tobacco industry, "McConnell repeatedly cast doubt on the health consequences of smoking, repeated industry talking points word-for-word, attacked federal regulators at the industry's request and opposed bipartisan tobacco regulations going back decades." At the same time, the tobacco industry "provided McConnell with millions of dollars in speaking fees, personal gifts, campaign contributions, and charitable donations to the McConnell Center, which is home to his personal and professional archives."
In January 2018, McConnell was one of thirty-six Republican senators to sign a letter to President Trump requesting he preserve the North American Free Trade Agreement by modernizing it for the economy of the 21st century. In March, McConnell was asked at a news conference about the Trump administration's intent to impose tariffs on imported aluminum and steel, answering that there was "a lot of concern among Republican senators that this could sort of metastasize into a larger trade war" and that there were discussions between senators and the administration on "just how broad, how sweeping this might be, and there is a high level of concern about interfering with what appears to be an economy that is taking off." McConnell defended NAFTA as having been successful in his state of Kentucky. In July, during a press conference, McConnell said, "I'm concerned about getting into a trade war and it seems like ... we may actually be in the early stages of it. Nobody wins a trade war, and so it would be good if it ended soon." In October, after the United States, Canada, and Mexico concluded talks relating to rearranging NAFTA, McConnell said the subject would "be a next-year issue because the process we have to go through doesn't allow that to come up before the end of this year" along with confirming that the U.S. International Trade Commission would take priority the following year.
In 2019, he claimed that Democrats were at fault for election fraud in the 2018 North Carolina 9th congressional district election, and that voter ID laws would have prevented the fraud. There was substantial evidence that the operatives working for Republican candidate Mark Harris, not the Democratic candidate, engaged in an illegal ballot harvesting operation. Voter ID laws would not have prevented the ballot harvesting that took place; experts said that McConnell was conflating ballot fraud (where someone manipulates ballots of legitimate voters) with voter fraud (voting by illegitimate voters). The Associated Press and PolitiFact described McConnell's remarks as "misleading."
In 2019, McConnell blocked a range of bipartisan proposals to improve election security amid the threat of foreign election interference. The blocked bills included the Secure Elections Act, the Protecting the Right to Independent and Democratic Elections (PRIDE) Act, the Protecting American Votes and Elections (PAVE) Act, and the Honest Ads Act. He again blocked two election security bills the day after Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified in the House of Representatives that U.S. election security was threatened by foreign powers.
In the graphics below, elections are shown with a map depicting county-by-county information. McConnell is shown in red and Democratic opponents shown in blue.
|Year||% McConnell||Opponent(s)||Party affiliation||% of vote||County-by-county map|
|1984||49.9%||Walter Huddleston (incumbent)
|1990||52.2%||Harvey I. Sloane||Democratic||47.8%|
Patricia Jo Metten
|2002||64.7%||Lois Combs Weinberg||Democratic||35.3%|
|2014||56.2%||Alison Lundergan Grimes
In 1984, McConnell ran for the U.S. Senate against two-term Democratic incumbent Walter Dee Huddleston. The election race was not decided until the last returns came in, and McConnell won by a thin margin – only 3,437 votes out of more than 1.2 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. His campaign bumper stickers and television ads asked voters to "Switch to Mitch".
|1984 U.S. Senate Republican primary election in Kentucky|
|Republican||Thurman Jerome Hamlin||3,202||6.4%|
|1990 U.S. Senate Republican primary election in Kentucky|
|Republican||Mitch McConnell (inc.)||64,063||88.5%|
In 1996, he defeated Steve Beshear by 12.6%, 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.
|1996 U.S. Senate Republican primary election in Kentucky|
|Republican||Mitch McConnell (inc.)||88,620||88.6%|
|2008 U.S. Senate Republican primary election in Kentucky|
|Republican||Mitch McConnell (inc.)||168,127||86.1%|
In 2014, McConnell faced Louisville businessman Matt Bevin in the Republican primary. The 60.2% won by McConnell was the lowest voter support for a Kentucky U.S. senator in a primary since 1938. He faced Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in the general election. Although polls showed the race was expected to be very close, McConnell defeated Grimes, 56.2–40.7%. The 15.5% margin of victory was one of his largest, second only to his 2002 margin.
|2014 U.S. Senate Republican primary election in Kentucky|
|Republican||Mitch McConnell (inc.)||213,753||60.2%|
McConnell is a Southern Baptist. He was married to his first wife, Sherrill Redmon, from 1968 to 1980, and had three children. Following their divorce, she became a feminist scholar at Smith College and director of the Sophia Smith Collection. His second wife, whom he married in 1993, is Elaine Chao, Secretary of Labor under President George W. Bush and Secretary of Transportation under President Donald Trump.
In May 2019, McConnell's brother-in-law Gordon Hartogensis, who is married to Chao's sister Grace, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), a part of the Labor Department. McConnell voted to confirm.
In 1997, he founded the James Madison Center for Free Speech, a Washington, D.C.–based legal defense organization. McConnell was inducted as a member of the Sons of the American Revolution on March 1, 2013.
In 2010, the OpenSecrets website ranked McConnell one of the wealthiest members of the U.S. Senate, based on net household worth. His personal wealth was increased after receiving a 2008 personal gift to him and his wife, given by his father-in-law James S. C. Chao after the death of McConnell's mother-in-law, that ranged between $5 and $25 million.
She'd been known her whole life not by her first name, Julia, which she loved, but by her middle name, Odene, which she detested. So in Birmingham she began to call herself Dean, and with no thought of ever returning to Wadley ... James McConnell, from County Down, Ireland, who came to this country as a young boy in the 1760s, went on to fight for the colonies in the American Revolution.
McConnell said that his original American ancestor emigrated from County Down, Ireland, to North Carolina.
the major responsibility for the obstruction and delay of Obama judges in the 114th Congress falls to Majority Leader McConnell and the allied leadership in the Republican Senate caucus
| Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legislative Affairs
| Judge-Executive of Jefferson County
|Party political offices|
| Republican nominee for U.S. senator from Kentucky
1984, 1990, 1996, 2002, 2008, 2014
| Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee
| Senate Republican Whip
| Senate Republican Leader
| U.S. senator (Class 2) from Kentucky
Served alongside: Wendell Ford, Jim Bunning, Rand Paul
| Ranking Member of the Senate Ethics Committee
| Chair of the Senate Ethics Committee
| Chair of the Senate Rules Committee
| Chair of the Joint Inaugural Ceremonies Committee
| Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee
| Chair of the Senate Rules Committee|
| Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee|
| Senate Majority Whip
| Senate Minority Leader
| Senate Majority Leader
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States senators by seniority