Nov 6, 2020
Mitch McConnell Press Conference Transcript November 6
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell held a press conference on September 6 to give remarks about the 2020 election. Read the transcript of the briefing.
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Mitch McConnell: (00:00)
What we do want to focus on today and we’ve pick the Kentucky history museum, because we’re talking about the recent history of the Republican party in this state. It’s been a dramatic transformation. Just to give you a sense of what it looked like in 1984, there were 10 Republicans in the state Senate and 28 Democrats. Next year in the state Senate, there will be 30 Republicans and eight Democrats in the State House, in 1984, there were 23 Republicans and 77 Democrats. Next year, there’ll be 75 Republicans and 25 Democrats. I was a chairman of something called a Republican County Judges Association. We had 28, there are now 75.
Mitch McConnell: (01:06)
So I think it’s pretty obvious that this growth has gone on for a fairly lengthy period of time, but it is a dramatically different state than what it was back then. I think we’ve got on the sheet that we gave you also the registration figures back in 1984 and what they are today. Just a slight difference. Always registration is the last thing to change, people change their voting behavior far before they change their actual registration. And we’ve tried to pick different intervals here to give you a sense of how the registration has picked up dramatically at various points.
Mitch McConnell: (01:50)
I also wanted to comment on a couple of things that were personally pleasing to me. I think you all have heard me say on a number of occasions, I’ve been unhappy with the trend recently across America with regard to college graduates and women. So I was particularly pleased in my race to get 57% of the female vote. Actually, I got a higher percent of the female vote then than of male.
Mitch McConnell: (02:17)
And also largely across the country, we’ve seen a decline in support for Republicans. I was certainly happy to see 58% of college graduates in Kentucky voted for me last Tuesday and 60% are college graduated women voted for me last Tuesday. So I think that does indicate that the effort to appeal to women voters and to college graduates is a correctable problem that we’ve had the last few years. I think we can get better at that. And Speaker Osborne will certainly mentioned that we did better in the suburbs and our two toughest counties, Jefferson and Fayette. Jason Nemes got reelected. Ken Fleming won his seat back in Jefferson County. And I think we kept the Stan Lee seat in Fayette. So that’s an indication that even in the two toughest counties for Republicans these days, it is possible to appeal to suburban voters.
Mitch McConnell: (03:33)
One word on the national scene, and that’s about all I’m going to have to say about that. I did think the unemployment figure this morning of 6.9% is a stunning indication of a dramatic comeback of the economy. That coupled with the gross domestic product growth in third quarter indicates that our economy is really moving to get back on its feet. That I think clearly ought to affect what size of any rescue package we additionally do. I do think we need another one, but I think it reinforces the argument that I’ve been making the last few months, that something smaller rather than throwing another $3 trillion at this issue is more appropriate, with it highly targeted towards things that are directly related to the coronavirus, which we all know is not going away until we get a vaccine. With that, I want to turn to Speaker Osborne because I think the figures from Tuesday night are simply stunning and I wanted to congratulate you on an election far beyond anything I ever anticipated observing.
Speaker Osborne: (04:47)
Well, thank you leader, it certainly was a stunning night and it was a historic night. And it started with you years ago. You’re the one that had the vision that we could take the majority in the house years ago. And we appreciate all of your efforts on that. It really was an historic night for House Republicans. It appears that we will have 75 members when we come into session in January, which will be certainly the largest number of house Republicans we’ve ever had. It’ll be the largest majority than any party has had since 1984, when the leader took office. I think that what is particularly gratifying to us, those of us that have invested so much in both policy and politics is the incredible geographic diversity under which we picked up seats, as the leader alluded to. Certainly, the enthusiasm and the excitement generated by the top of the ticket was incredibly beneficial in the rural parts of the state.
Speaker Osborne: (05:52)
But we got wins and many areas where the headwinds were against us. We retained every single seat and protected every single incumbent. We protected four incumbents in Jefferson County, picked up a seat in Jefferson County. We held a seat, probably the number one target that they had was the 45th district in Fayette County. We’ve held that seat. Plus added a seat that does contain a portion of Fayette County, Woodford County and Franklin County with Dan Fister. It was great to see that the people of Kentucky reverse some trends that we’ve seen over the past couple of cycles and solidified our majority, even in suburban areas. I believe now that that House Republicans now have more seats that include portions of Jefferson and Fayette County than the House Democrats have in the entirety of the rest of the state, East of 75 and West of 65. So it was quite an accomplishment and one that certainly we could have imagined, but did not necessarily anticipate, but are certainly gratified by it. And with that, the guy that even has a little bit bigger margin than we have president [inaudible 00:07:24].
Thank you, David and Senator McConnell. It was a good night for Republicans, but I want to specifically speak about a couple of things. First of all, I wasn’t here in ’94, I came in ’96. And it was Senator McConnell who was quite the leader for us at the state level. And I don’t know if he recalls this, but at one point in time, we had a special election that we didn’t know if it would be really close or not, because then Governor Steve Bashir was appointing people to benches to try to take us out of the mix. And actually got Senator McConnell in the bathroom one morning while I was shaving to make sure that we could get some help, and he came to our aid and really that was one of the big trending races that helped us keep the trajectory we are on now, that finishes as history will write today or on Tuesday, where we now have picked up 30 seats in the Senate.
For historians, I’m not sure if Al Cross is here, but for historians, we now have more Senate members in the Republican caucus in the Senate than the House has Democrat members in their caucus in the House. Think about that. Senator McConnell also said something that look at this economy. Well, look at our economy and how it’s coming back, and how this all ties in together is when you look at the change in the House a few years ago, the fact that the Senate has been what it has been since 2000, following directions, and my agreement with Senator McConnell, that we need to be targeted about what we do. Our economy is coming back very strong right now in the state of Kentucky. And the reason in my opinion, that is, is because what we did in 2016 in changing the economic dynamics, and all the things you saw with the critical investment that took place over the last three years prior to this new administration.
That’s the difference that this change has made over the last 30 years in changing the way the state goes forward, to where those demographics Senator McConnell, you talked about voting for you, are now consistently and regularly voting for Republicans across the board in this state. Last, saying that one comment about how it has worked, I cannot say enough for David Osborne and his group of how we’ve been able to talk, discuss, communicate, between ourselves for the last three years to effectuate and pass these policies. We truly hope that that type of communication we’re having, will extend over into the executive branch and he will come to the table to have further discussions with us, or at least start discussing with us what we can do to continue to move this state forward. Because it is clear to me, I think it’s clear to everybody up here, that you just look at the map, you look at the returns, you look at the numbers, the state wants to go in a direction that we want to move it in. Senator?
Mitch McConnell: (11:09)
Thanks. We’re happy to throw it open.
Speaker 5: (11:10)
Mitch McConnell: (11:16)
Well, I have talked about it. I sent out a tweet this morning that covers my thoughts about the national situation if that’s what you were about to ask.
Speaker 5: (11:23)
Mitch McConnell: (11:34)
Yeah, I think what I said in the tweet this morning.
Speaker 6: (11:36)
Mitch McConnell: (11:42)
I’m not going to answer any hypothetical about where we go from here. I think this is ultimately going to be decided exactly what I said in my tweet. You’re going to have contests, you’re going to have court decisions. That’s how we settle these kinds of disputes in this country.
Speaker 6: (11:58)
Mitch McConnell: (12:03)
Look, I’ve already covered this subject. I’ve already covered the subject. I told you, I sent out a tweet this morning, which covers my view of where we are.
Speaker 6: (12:10)
Mitch McConnell: (12:19)
I told you I have sent out what I want to say today about the situation and the tweet that you all have.
Speaker 6: (12:26)
Mitch McConnell: (12:32)
I understand that I’ve said what I intended to say about it.
Speaker 6: (12:35)
Mitch McConnell: (12:42)
I’ve covered the subject already this morning. I don’t know how many times you want to [inaudible 00:12:46] it will be settled, as I pointed out in the tweet, in exactly the way these matters are always settled.
Speaker 6: (12:53)
Mitch McConnell: (13:05)
Well, I’m not going to answer a hypothetical about what it might look like. I’m not certain I’m the majority leader yet. As you all may have noticed, that will be determined in Georgia on January the sixth. And so it makes a big difference whether you are the majority leader or the minority leader, even if you end up in a 50/50 situation. We were there at 50/50 in 2000, and it was uncertain because we hadn’t been equally divided in the Senate since something in the 1880s.
Mitch McConnell: (13:36)
So Senator Lott, who was the majority leader at the time and Senator Daschle, who were the Democratic leader at the time, got together and decided to set a precedent for what do you do when you ended up in a tie? And it made a lot of sense how they settled it. The vice-president breaks the tie. At that particular occasion, Dick Cheney was the vice-president, so Lott became the majority leader in Daschle the minority leader. So it makes a big difference who wins the two seats in Georgia. If the Democrats were to win the two seats, Chuck Schumer would be the majority leader. And the significance of that job as we’ve discussed before is the majority leader gets to decide what the agenda is. What you’re going to do, what you’re not going to do. So this is not yet decided in this overwhelmingly the close national election, we had a very good day.
Mitch McConnell: (14:29)
Most pundits thought we were going to lose the Senate. But we have not yet actually secured the majority. That’ll be determined in Georgia where we will have to run offs on January the sixth.
Speaker 7: (14:41)
Mitch McConnell: (14:45)
Speaker 7: (14:45)
Mitch McConnell: (14:45)
Speaker 7: (14:45)
Mitch McConnell: (14:52)
Oh, I talk to him all the time.
Speaker 7: (14:53)
Mitch McConnell: (14:58)
Yeah. I generally don’t report my conversation with the president, but as you know, he’s on the phone a lot and we talked for a time.
Speaker 6: (15:04)
Mitch McConnell: (15:09)
I know it’s reasonable for you to ask, but I got to decide what I say.
Speaker 6: (15:12)
Mitch McConnell: (15:22)
Anybody else got a question related to what we-
Speaker 6: (15:24)
Senator, [inaudible 00:15:26].
Mitch McConnell: (15:28)
I’ve already explained it. I’ve already explained it. It won’t make any difference how many times you ask. I’ve already given you my answer.
Speaker 9: (15:34)
Mitch McConnell: (15:39)
Yeah. I say to Americans, take a look at what I had to say this morning.
Speaker 10: (15:43)
Mitch McConnell: (15:51)
Of course, we’ve had a peaceful transfer of power going back to 1792, every four years. You’ve moved on to a new administration in 1792. It was the second Washington administration.
Speaker 6: (16:04)
Mitch McConnell: (16:07)
Anyone else have any questions?
Speaker 11: (16:09)
Speaker Osborne: (16:29)
I’m not sure that I would call it a referendum. I’ve been asked a couple of times if that was a mandate or a referendum, but I think clearly it is indicative of the way that the people of Kentucky feel. It is obvious that the people of Kentucky spoke loudly, that they want Republican control of the legislature, and therefore control of the legislative branch of government. That was I think, a very loud signal. As I said, I think clearly, the enthusiasm at the top of the ticket with the leader and the president in rural Kentucky generated a great benefit for us.
Speaker Osborne: (17:08)
But when you look in places where the headwinds were against us, suburban Jefferson County, I think that speaks loudly of the failure of leadership in Jefferson County. The city of Ashland, city of Owensboro, the seats in Lexington and in suburban areas surrounding Lexington. I believe that you’d have to conclude, given the fact that the governor was highly involved in those rices, that at the very least, they didn’t want to reward him for anything that he had done. And I hope that he will take that as an opportunity to engage the legislature.
Speaker Osborne: (17:52)
We’ve been asking for months for that to happen. And every time we’ve tried to force the issue, he’s accused us of playing politics. Clearly he decided to play politics in this, he recruited candidates, he raised enormous amounts of money, he endorsed candidates, he campaigned for candidates and every single one of them lost. So I believe that that is some statement. I’ll let you conclude whether it’s referendum or not.
Speaker 12: (18:15)
I don’t think it is a referendum, but I definitely think it’s a reflection Lawrence, because the governor wants to sit there and say, don’t question me. And if you question them and you’re trying to play got you politics. Now we have legitimate questions. And I think people want those questions answered. He wants to take credit for the mask initiative. Senator McConnell has worked with him quite well. Made a lot of announcements. Has worn his mask. We all know that we need to wear masks, stay socially distanced as we are here, do all the appropriate things. But he went out and campaigned on send people to come up here and support me, put it in flyers, and then wants to say, he’s not playing politics with this issue.
We talked about the economy and people are worried about the economy. We’ve wrote in letters, joint letters, saying we’ve got to worry about the economy. And finally, I think he listened to us with one of his very brief statements yesterday. But is it exclusive and a referendum? No, because this man had part of the impact. The presidential race had a part of the impact. But the numbers in and of themselves tell you what the public thinks, when the governor sits there and disparages the legislature in front of you, saying, “You think I want to work with them?” Well, the public spoke pretty loudly, 75% of the House is Republican, 80% of the Senate is Republican.
Speaker 13: (19:48)
What are the policy issues that the legislature has to tackle in January when they come back? And specifically, regarding the way the governor has handled the pandemic?
I want to say this, we’re going to refine. There’s no doubt that chief executives of any state or at the federal level need types of powers in emergency. We all agree with that. What’s the extent and duration? How do you apply them? Think about this. In one of the lawsuits that was filed, you had an Ag tourism group in Scott County that was only allowed to have 10 people per acre. That was the governor’s guidance, and went out there and shut them down. So they filed a lawsuit, knowing that Kentucky Kingdom on 14 acres is allowed 16,000 people, equal application. Sandra McConnell, again, I’m reframe referencing him, had a great speech talking about this is the time when you really need to follow constitution. There has not been even application of anything he’s done. You can have a protest, we agree with protest, but then he sends state troopers out to churches to cite people? Threatens them with fines? Has his chief person, Dr. Stack, who releases a piece of information calling pastors ignorant? Is this really the tone that he should be setting?
Mitch McConnell: (21:17)
Yeah, let me just make one observation. I’m don’t serve in Frankfurt, but given the fact that the coronavirus is still here, very much here. The question people often ask of governors, not just ours, but all across the country, what is the best place to be from a public health point of view? I think it’s noteworthy that one thing that Donald Trump and Anthony Fauci agree on is that we can’t shut the economy down again. So the message to us is how do we work safely through this period until we get a vaccine? And Robert has touched on it. We have to act responsibly. And in the Senate, we’ve been doing that since the first of May by wearing a mask and practice social distancing, and trying to prevent the spread.
Mitch McConnell: (22:14)
That’s all we can do until we get a vaccine, because the economic calamity was dramatic, absolutely dramatic. It also had public health implications. Suicides up overdoses up, spouse abuse up, child abuse up. Lots of bad problems as a result of being cooped up. So I do hope all the governors will think twice before they move in the direction of doing what we did back in the spring, which everybody thought was a responsible thing to do at the time. But we now understand that that was not risk-free either. And we need to work our way through this until we get one or more vaccines, hopefully in the very near future.
Speaker 14: (23:04)
Mitch McConnell: (23:05)
I’d rather let these guys comment on the Kentucky situation. I was making a broad comment about going back to anything close to what we did in the spring, seems to me to in retrospect, been counterproductive. And I think that’s what Dr. Fauci now thinks too because as I said, he and the president actually agree we shouldn’t shut the economy down again. I don’t know if you guys want to-
Speaker 14: (23:27)
Mitch McConnell: (23:37)
It seems to me the election turned out just fine. I don’t have any complaint about how it was set up. These guys will have to decide whether that was a one-time way to do an election or just an aberration. I’ll leave that up to them.
Speaker Osborne: (23:53)
I think certainly under the circumstances, the system worked very well. I know that in conversations with a number of the clerks and a number of other officials, they have some concerns about some things going forward. I think that you will see some of these changes made permanent, but I also think the in consultation with the Clerk’s Association, we certainly want to consider their input as well, because they’re the ones that are actually fulfilling these orders. And we need to make sure that that their voice is heard as well.
Speaker 15: (24:31)
Speaker Osborne: (24:35)
It’s premature to get into that. We were going to put together a working group to get together with the secretary of state, the executive branch, with the Clerk’s Association to look at what actually did work, what will work going forward, what was unnecessary and what additional things may be done going forward. So it’d be premature to speculate at this point.
Speaker 16: (24:56)
Speaker Osborne: (25:02)
I think some degree of early voting is certainly something that we will consider, yes.
Mitch McConnell: (25:10)
Okay. Thanks a lot.
Speaker 6: (25:11)
Senator, could I ask one last question?
Speaker 17: (25:34)
Speaker Osborne: (25:34)
We have our retreat scheduled for December. We have 21 new members in our caucus that will certainly have an opinion about those matters and about our overall policy agenda. Clearly the budget will be our primary policy initiative. The budget will be the most important thing that we will do during the session. So anything beyond that, we’ll have to have input from the remainder of the caucus, especially in the new members.
Speaker 17: (26:13)
Speaker Osborne: (26:13)
We will write a balanced and responsible budget with or without the help of the federal government. Certainly, there are some areas that I think the federal government can and should backfill, particularly along the lines of unemployment insurance. But again, we will write a balanced and responsible budget with or without the help of the federal government.
Speaker 18: (26:35)
Speaker Osborne: (26:49)
We will certainly have new protocols. Our IT staff has been working on remote voting from members’ offices without having to phone them in. They can actually vote from their desk. We are also consulting with some scientists and public health officials about creating the best protocols possible to make sure that we can conduct our business, which we have to do, but also do so in the safest possible manner.