Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, facing his toughest election battle in memory, is determined to win the support of female voters. But in order to do that, he’ll have to get creative with his record, and hope no one notices the difference.
McConnell, up for re-election next year, is facing threats from both the right and left. If he successfully fights off a Tea Party primary challenge, which is not at all assured, he will face Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes. The Grimes camp sees an opening hitting the Senate’s top Republican for his embrace of anti-woman policies.
And that’s where Team Mitch for Women comes in. As the Louisville Courier-Journal reports, “dozens of women” came out to support McConnell at “a small rally in an office complex.”
As one McConnell aide previously told the New York Times: ”We’re going to be very aggressive in making sure people don’t mischaracterize what his record is, especially when it comes to women and women’s issues…Not only are we not afraid of it, we’re very proud of it.”
So proud, that Team Mitch distributed a press packet at the event featuring a series of testimonials from Kentucky women. One such testimonial grabbed the attention of Louisville-based reporter Joe Sonka—who tweeted:
This quote in McConnell press packet on co-sponsorship of #VAWA is…. Interesting: http://t.co/MYRinTwgGo #KYSen #orly
— Joe Sonka (@joesonka) August 30, 2013
The quote comes from a woman named Angela Leet, who says: “Mitch was the co-sponsor of the original Violence Against Women Act—and continues to advocate for stronger policies to protect women. I am proud to call him my senator.”
The truth is, McConnell did co-sponsor a version of the Violence Against Women Act 22 years ago.However, that legislation died in committee and never got a vote. By the time the measure came up again in 1993, McConnell was no longer a cosponsor, and in fact voted against final passage of the bill.
Of course, McConnell has had two decades to redeem himself on that “no” vote. Yet, earlier this year he voted against the legislation’s re-authorization, even though he knew it would pass by a wide, bipartisan margin. Aides say McConnell voted for a quote “stronger” alternative version of the bill—one that excluded protections for lesbians and gays, Native Americans, and undocumented workers.
Of course, the Violence Against Women Act is just one example of McConnell’s hypocrisy. Declarations from McConnell’s inner circle illustrate the disconnect between Mitch, the man and Mitch, the policymaker. One McConnell aide spoke of the senator’s humanity after her son was diagnosed with cancer. McConnell reportedly told her to, “stay home, focus on what’s important, come back when you’re ready, I’ve got your back.”
Yet, McConnell voted against the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which requires businesses to allow employees unpaid leave time to deal with medical issues of their own or family members.
Then there’s this testimonial from McConnell’s own wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, who spoke about how her husband “has fought for funding for breast cancer research”, as well as “funding for expanded cancer screenings for underprivileged and under-served communities.”
Yet, he’s of course in favor of repealing Obamacare, and he’s given his blessing to the sequester—which has caused the state of Kentucky to cut off cancer screenings to hundreds of low-income women.
And so while Mitch the man and Mitch the policymaker stand in stark contrast, Mitch the candidate’s best strategy is to just hope no one notices—or cares about—what he truly stands for. Or maybe he’ll figure out that the best way to win the support of women is to stand for policies that actually help them.
Though I don’t think anyone should hold their breath.