Mar 23, 2021
Mitch McConnell, Senate GOP Press Conference Transcript March 23
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans held a press conference on March 23, 2021. They discussed gun violence, immigration on the southern border, and more. Read the transcript of the briefing here.
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Mitch McConnell: (00:11)
Well, good afternoon, everyone. Senator Blunt will elaborate on this more, but the big item here in the Senate this week are the hearings on H.R.1, the Democratic plan to take over all of American elections, and centralize them here in Washington. It is replete with problems. First, I would list it turns the Federal Election Commission, which is currently three-three, from an independent arbiter into a prosecutor, by setting it at three-two, and making the President pick the head of the agency that will police everybody’s speech in this country.
Mitch McConnell: (00:52)
It goes downhill from there, including having a generous public funding subsidy for political campaigns. Of course, the American people hate the idea of their money being used to subsidize balloons and button stickers and attack ads. Those hearings will begin to unfold tomorrow. Senator Blunt, and all of the Republicans on the Rules Committee will be there, full force to discuss the aspects of this, not the least of which is that it would produce total chaos in the 22 ‘elections. They simply could not be conducted under the federally-prescribed rules that the Democrats have in mind for this legislation.
John Thune: (01:49)
We’re all of two months into the Biden administration and really the only legislative activity we’ve had is a bloated, wasteful $2 trillion bill which included bailouts for Blue States and multi-employer pension funds and changing the rules with respect to how PPP funds are used, and in allowing Planned Parenthood and other organizations in violation of longstanding laws in this country, that’s always seen in terms of legislative activity. At the same time, the Democrats are now talking about doing away with the only requirement that there be any bi-partisan cooperation or any willingness to talk across party lines when it comes to moving legislation, and that’s the legislative filibuster. As the leader pointed out, they’re talking about H.R.1, and potentially using it to do that, which would be terrible legislation.
John Thune: (02:45)
In fact, that’s the very reason the legislative filibuster was put in place, so that you couldn’t move partisan bills like H.R.1, that are designed to stack the playing field politically when it comes to elections. But the fact of the matter is, Democrats have consistently argued in the past, the Democratic Leader, the Democratic Whip, Democrat members up to, or over 30, I should say, signed a letter just a couple of years ago in support of a legislative filibuster, arguing how important it was to the institution of the Senate, and to the need to have minority representation in our legislative process. Now, they’ve completely flipped, done a complete 180, so fast it’d make your head spin and they’ve come out in opposition to the legislative filibuster, after they have used it for the last six years to try and block and stop Republican legislation. Republicans on the other hand, have defended the legislative filibuster, even in the midst of attacks by a President from our party, repeated attacks to try and get rid of it.
John Thune: (03:47)
We’ve defended it because we understand what it means to the Senate and our ability to function as a nation in a way that allows voices from all parts of the electorate to have their voice in our legislative process. It’s a big mistake for them, one that they will come to regret if they do it. I certainly hope that there are enough wise and thoughtful Democrats who understand that doing away with the legislative filibuster would create a nuclear winter in the United States Senate and make it even more difficult to get things done.
Speaker 4: (04:26)
There is a crisis at the border. The numbers tell the story. The number of young people, unaccompanied minors, who are currently being held is at an all-time high. The Secretary of Health and Human Services has said that the number of people coming across the border this year would be at a 20-year high, and there is no end in sight. The numbers actually being predicted are 2 million illegal immigrants coming to the United States in 2021. 2 million. You say, why is this, why did this occur? Well, it goes back to Inauguration Day, when Joe Biden signed five different executive orders, each one having to do with immigration. He essentially put out the welcome mat. He turned on the sign that said our borders are open, and then he introduced legislation that provides citizenship and a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants who are in the country right now.
Speaker 4: (05:30)
The word went out around the world, if you can get to the United States, you can stay. This weekend, a group of Republican Senators will head to the border and there we will witness what is happening to our border, as well as our national security. This is Joe Biden’s crisis. He created it by his policies. Republicans have common sense solutions that would actually reverse this immediately, and it involves securing the border, enforcing the laws and restoring the Remain in Mexico Orders. If we don’t do those things, and the Biden administration doesn’t adopt those, we will continue to suffer the security and the safety of this nation.
Roy Blunt: (06:20)
Well, this will be S.R.1, obviously just like S.1, creates a priority for what the majority thinks is important. This is the first time in 21 years, that the first bill that got referred to a committee, S.1., got referred to the Rules Committee. It is fundamentally a federalization of the election process. We’ve had a process since the beginning of the country, where states and local officials had the flexibility and the ability to make their laws work for voters in their state. Democrats argued for weeks and months after the election last time. It was the most secure election we’d ever had, and the highest number of people that had ever voted, voted because of the flexibility that states had to respond to the moment, and how it impacted their state. You know, there are 1st Amendment issues. There are 10th Amendment issues.
Roy Blunt: (07:20)
There are constitutional issues on redistricting, in addition to simply federalizing the election process. Now, in every article, I believe I’ve read on this, one of the lines in the article is, according to the Brennan Center, there are more than 250 bills filed by Republicans in state legislatures to make it harder to vote. Well, 253 bills to be exact, according to the Brennan Center, in 43 state legislatures, so that’s about six bills per legislature, which is probably about right by any legislative standard. Politicians are always experts on how to conduct elections, but most of those bills will never pass. In fact, the two bills that have passed, the two Republican bills that have passed, according to the Brennan Center, one is in Arkansas, where they further explain how their voter ID rules will be implemented.
Roy Blunt: (08:17)
Another is in Utah, the Voter Suppression Bill in Utah, according to the Brennan Center, is where the Lieutenant Governor, who is the election official for the state has to forward to county clerks the least of the list of deceased people in Utah, from the Social Security Administration. If you believe this story. That is voter suppression, creating a way that dead people get off the voter rolls, there are 700 bills by the way, filed by Democrats and state legislatures, a number I’ve never read in any article yet, to make it theoretically, easier to vote. Things like Illinois, where at least in the big counties in Illinois, you have to have a polling place at the jail, under that bill that now has passed in Illinois.
Roy Blunt: (09:09)
Now, I don’t agree with that, but I don’t vote for anybody in the Illinois legislature, and I don’t assume that Washington DC is a better place than Springfield, Illinois to decide what’s the right thing to do there. I’m opposed to this bill. I would be opposed to a Republican bill that said, here’s the Republican way to take over the election process. We’ve got something here that’s worked for a long time, that’s responsive, that people know the people that are expected to be sure that the election is conducted in a free and fair way. This bill takes all of that away.
Joni Ernst: (09:52)
The filibuster forces compromise, and this is what Republicans did when they were in the majority, in both the House and the Senate, and holding the White House. We abided by the filibuster because we believed it was important to protect the minority party. The filibuster is what makes the Senate, the Senate. I have said it before, but we don’t need two House of Representatives here in Washington, DC. So, maintaining the filibuster is very, very important. What we see from Democrats, however, is that they want to get rid of the filibuster, and what we call that, is a power grab. What we see is a move forward on things like the $15 per hour minimum wage, the Green New Deal, federalizing our elections process, which is much better handled at the state and local level. Now, taking away the rights of the voters and the people within those States, that’s exactly what we are experiencing in Iowa today.
Joni Ernst: (11:05)
We have a Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who was seated. She was duly-elected and seated in Iowa’s Second Congressional District. Now it was a slim margin that she won by, but recounts were done in those counties. The board of every county canvassed the elections properly. It went to a bi-partisan board at the state level, and the election was certified by Iowans. Now, Rita Hart, Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ opponent chose not to do what Iowa Code calls for, and go through the Iowa courts to appeal the decision of that bipartisan board. She chose not to do that. Instead, went straight to Nancy Pelosi and appealed to Democrats in a political process. Now, thankfully, those Democrats, some of them in the House are standing up and coming forward and saying it would be wrong to unseat Marionette Miller Meeks, who has been declared the winner of Iowa’s Second Congressional District. So, we need to keep this process where it belongs, at the state level. It needs to be at the local level. We do not need to federalize our election system, and Marionette Miller-Weeks’ win needs to stand.
Speaker 2: (12:40)
Last Friday, I had the opportunity to go to the Arizona, Mexico border with Governor Ducey from Arizona. What we saw is what Biden’s open borders amnesty policy is doing. I met with border patrol agents. They’re flabbergasted at these changes. We took a helicopter, went down along the coast and here’s what you saw. You saw a wall that didn’t even have an opening because they were ready to put the gates up and the Biden administration says, “No, you can’t put the gates up.” You saw cameras and lights. They’re ready to be hooked up so we can have better security. Shut down, they won’t let them open that up. You saw roads there that were supposed to run along the wall that are going to be washed out because of the rains that have come, unfinished because the Biden administration made a decision that they’re not going to finish the construction that Congress appropriated.
Speaker 2: (13:32)
So, I don’t know why the Biden ministration is doing this. You’ve heard the numbers. 100,000 people were detained last month, almost 10,000 children, 15,000 children now in custody. This is all Joe Biden’s doing. He needs to go to the border, needs to see the crisis he’s created. He said, he’s going to do it now, but we don’t know when he’s going to do it. He created this crisis. He needs to go deal with it. These governors like Governor Ducey are dealing with this crisis. They’re dealing with people coming across the border. Their ranchers are getting impacted. Their businesses are getting impacted. Joe Biden needs to get down there and solve the problem.
Speaker 8: (14:07)
Given the rise of gun violence and mass shootings that we’ve seen over the years, do you personally regret the opposition that you’ve had to expanding background checks, including the Joe Manchin Bill that [inaudible 00:14:21]
Mitch McConnell: (14:21)
Yeah. Well, with regard to the bill that is going to be up in the House, that the President, I gather supports, I join Joe Manchin in opposing that bill, with regard to these acts of violence, they are absolutely horrendous. Let me focus for a minute on the shootings in Georgia. As the husband for almost three decades of an Asian-American woman, I have noticed, and we have experienced, over the years, racial prejudice against Asian-Americans. It certainly rose to the fore for everyone else when we saw these shootings, these despicable acts of violence should need to be condemned for what they are, but the legislative solutions have been perplexing. As I said, I share Joe Manchin’s opposition to the version that passed in the House.
Speaker 9: (15:22)
You argue the filibuster is not moving in racism. Historians differ on this. Are you concerned about the perception, if it is used against advancing voting rights? Certainly the public perception is that Republicans are wanting to use this tool to make it harder for black people to vote.
Mitch McConnell: (15:42)
Yeah. Actually, historians do not agree. It has no racial history at all. None. So, there’s no dispute among historians about that. I make no apologies for opposing this bill. You’ve heard Senator Blunt outline the various flaws involved in it. This is all about a power grab. If it were related to civil rights, why were the Democrats using the tool last year, and the year before that, and the last six years? Why is it all of a sudden, a civil rights issue when it wasn’t for them, as recently as last year. Honestly, with all due respect, that is nonsense. This is a power grab. It’s all about trying to take over the American election system. It has all kinds of flaws, and under Senator Blunt’s leadership, we’re going to begin to point them out in great detail, starting tomorrow in the Rules Committee.
Female reporter 2: (16:39)
Senator McConnell, do you have any concerns about whether Eric Greitens is the caliber of candidate that should be representing the Republican Party?
Mitch McConnell: (16:48)
Well, I think the voters of Missouri are going to decide who the nominee is next year, and in the meantime, my view is, it’s up to the people in Missouri to decide who the candidates are going to be.
Female reporter 2: (16:58)
Do you think he’s electable?
Speaker 11: (17:00)
Long guns. There’ve been a number of possible legislative solutions, whether it was expanding background checks, red-flag [inaudible 00:17:06], limits on magazine capacity. Are any of those things you think your conference might support, that you might support? Is there a legislative role in addressing, with guns part of the specific?
Mitch McConnell: (17:20)
I’m certainly open to the discussion. We were in this place August of 2019, when we had another series of incidences. The then-President was wrestling with whether or not he could support something. What I’m not attracted to is something that doesn’t work, and there have been deep-seated, philosophical differences between Republicans and Democrats about how to deal with gun violence. One thing we do know for sure, is that these shooters are invariably mentally incapacitated, mentally incapacitated. This is a vexing problem. It is extremely hard to identify in advance, so we will see what the Majority Leader wants to put on the floor and see what it looks like, and have a full, robust discussion.