Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell is perhaps one of the staunchest, most principled, and genuinely conservative Republicans serving in office today. He has stood up against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for years. He has made it job No. 1 to scrutinize and stop each piece of detrimental Obama-sponsored legislation that comes to the Senate.
Now, he’s leading a push to sweep control of the Senate from a Democratic majority to a Republican one.
On Thursday, KTTH host Ben Shapiro welcomed McConnell to his show to talk about the most pressing issues in government today, including flipping the Senate, immigration, Keystone XL, and President Obama’s drastic executive power overreach.
Ben Shapiro: Let me start with the story of the week, President Obama’s apparently lawless attempts to avoid the implementation of Obamacare. What do you make of the president’s executive power grab?
Mitch McConnell: A couple of dozen times he’s simply decided to say ‘never mind’ on the law. It’s hard for any of us to object because we think everyone in the country should get a reprieve. This should be pulled out root and branch and we ought to start over. The president picking and choosing which parts he wants to work is further evidence that it doesn’t work for anybody in America.
Shapiro: Do you think there’s going to be any support of additional legal action against this president, who continues to talk about the use of executive power in unprecedented ways?
McConnell: There are legal actions all over the country by aggrieved citizens. The challenge for us is to get what is called ‘standing.’ Aggrieved citizens all over America who do have standing are filing lawsuits all over the place. They’re all winding their way to maybe the Supreme Court.
Shapiro: On Obamacare, there’s been this hubbub about so-called divisions in the Republican Party about it. Do you see any division at all among Republicans about the implementation of Obamacare?
McConnell: There wasn’t a single Republican in the House or Senate who voted for Obamacare. There’s not a single one of us who haven’t voted to get rid of it multiple times. There are no differences among Republicans about Obamacare. Look, the problem is, we have a Democratic Senate. Fifty-five Democrats, 45 Republicans – we have a math problem. So, achieving the goal that we all would love to achieve is simply not attainable in the absence of relief at the polls with the American people flipping the Senate and then hopefully giving us a new president.
Shapiro: There seem to be a couple of different strategies that can be attempted here with regards to stopping Obamacare and stopping the Democratic agenda. One is, we’ll fight back where we can [using the debt ceiling and the budget]. The other is to let Americans live with the consequences of Obama and Democratic rule and then wait until we’re actually in control and can actually do something about it. Do you think that those are the two combating views here? And if so, which do you think is the best strategy for bringing Republicans back to a position of real power?
McConnell: The goals are not achievable with the current makeup of the Senate and the White House. What is achievable is the American people changing the Senate in reaction to this monstrosity. I think we need to be honest with our supporters; it’s not possible when you have a 55-45 Democratic Senate and Barack Obama in the White House.
Shapiro: Last week, the Congressional Budget Office came out with a report on Obamacare, which states that 2.5 million jobs will fall out of the workforce because people will opt out. Democrats are saying that’s a good thing because it ends ‘job lock.’ It seems we have is a fundamental difference in philosophy on what exactly the role of work in is in American life. What do you make of the Democrats’ argument that Americans are ending job lock to drop out of the workforce to get government benefits?
McConnell: Well, this certainly underscores what Democrats are these days: less work, less responsibility. I think the point of the CBO report is understated – 2. 3 million fewer jobs as a result of this law is something we ought to be concerned about. The last thing we want to do is make work less desirable for American people. This is the way Democrats look at things. They think big government and more benefits for more people for doing less is a good thing for America. It’s not. That’s a way to Europeanize the country. We want America full of vibrant workplace opportunities and the way to get the economy going is not to be passing things like Obamacare, but go in an entirely different direction: less spending, less borrowing, less taxes, less regulations – that’s the way to get America going.
Shapiro: Last week, Obama did an interview on Fox News [with Bill O’Reilly] where he said ‘flat out’ there was no corruption at the IRS when the IRS was apparently targeting conservative 501c4 groups. Secondly, Democrats are attempting to convene a watchdog council to question the independence of the Treasury Department inspector general [who is investigating the IRS targeting scandal]. What do you make of Obama saying there’s no corruption at the IRS, and what do you make of Democrats trying to go after the Treasury Department inspector general?
McConnell: There’s no question that there was an effort to target those that the administration thought would be their enemies. More noteworthy is how they want to change the nature of 501c4 groups. Now the administration is pushing the Treasury Department to change the legislation to shut people up. We had an example of this in the Nixon administration when he tried to use the IRS to target political enemies. The IRS commissioner said no to Nixon. We need the commissioner of the IRS to protect his agency from the White House turning it into another arm of the Democratic National Committee.
Shapiro: There’s a collapsing support for the anti-Keystone XL pipeline movement. Are you seeing less resistance in the Senate to Keystone XL, which has long been a bugaboo for the left?
McConnell: We’ve got a jobless recovery. Here’s a private sector project that’s ready to go. It’s important to our national security and would create thousands of jobs. The president has been sitting on this for five years. The only people who think it’s a bad idea are far left people.
Shapiro: New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said this week a couple of contradictory things. First, he said immigration reform was absolutely necessary. But then he said it shouldn’t be implemented until after the 2016 election. Do you think there’s any chance immigration reform is brought up this year? If not, do you think there’s a chance it is brought up while Barack Obama is in the White House?
McConnell: I can tell you for sure we will not be doing immigration this year. I don’t think there’s a way to get an agreement between the Senate and the House and we might as well move on to other matters we might be able to address.
Shapiro: What about beyond the election?
McConnell: Who knows? It’s hard for me to see how this Democratic Senate and this Republican House could ever agree on the proper kind of fixes needed to clean up an immigration system that’s broken. I think the solution is to change the Senate, make me the majority leader instead of the minority leader, and we can address all of these issues in a totally different way.
Shapiro: With regard to immigration, one of the issues that’s once come up is that as long as Barack Obama is in the White House, there really is going to be nothing to talk about here because the Senate bill kicks all the enforcement authority to the White House. Were the Senate to be in Republican control, would it set forth an objective border-security measure instead of kicking it over to the executive branch?
McConnell: We’re very skeptical about this president. When he said in the State of the Union that he wanted to use his pen, what he meant was that no matter what Congress thought, he was going to do what he wanted. We’ve seen that on full display with the implementation of Obamacare. That certainly doesn’t raise the confidence level to give him the authority over immigration.