Republican Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell isn’t shy about wanting a promotion come November when his party stands a chance at re-taking control of the U.S. Senate. But before he can be elevated to the position of Majority Leader, he has to win his seat back.
At the Kentucky Farm Bureau’s Meet the Candidates forum in Louisville this week, McConnell repeatedly referenced the advantages his state would see by having him in leadership.
“It’s a distinct advantage for our state,” he said. “I don’t think our state should lose that clout and influence on our behalf.”
But his opponent, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, said his influence in Kentucky has declined with the end of project funding also known as “earmarks.”
“You’ll hear him talk about work over a decade ago that he did to bring funds here to the commonwealth of Kentucky, but what he won’t tell you is that the era of earmarks is over,” she said.
Grimes also took the opportunity before the state’s farming community to lace into McConnell for a lack of commitment in Washington, D.C. to their industry.
“When it comes to the Agriculture Committee, did Senator McConnell bother to show up? No,” she said. “For nearly three years, he has missed every Agriculture Committee meeting.”
The Farm Bill, one of the few pieces of bi-partisan legislation accomplished in this Congress, has been used by Democrats in Senate races across the country against GOP rivals who opposed it or voted against it. Grimes shamed McConnell for voting against it.
“The farm bill, the 2014 farm bill, it’s an amazing bill, but no thanks to Kentucky’s senator,” she said. “There’s only two people, according to Chairwoman Stabenow, that have ever talked to her about agriculture here in Kentucky. It’s our governor and myself,” Grimes said.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) stumped for Grimes back in February. During her visit to Kentucky, Stabenow told a crowd she forgot McConnell was even on the committee.
“Now, the reason that I had forgotten that is because he has never attended a meeting in the three years I have chaired the committee,” she said at the time.
But McConnell made no secret that his leadership responsibilities were to blame and mocked Grimes knowledge of the legislative process.
“Alison’s friend and supporter Harry Reid must not have told her how Party leaders deal with committees work,” McConnell said.
McConnell explained to the audience members full of representatives of the farming community why committee assignments aren’t as important as being in the Senate leadership.
“Harry [Reid] actually resigned from all of his committees because you don’t have time,” he said. “Because you don’t have time to do justice to committee work if you’re one of the party leaders, you’re involved in other issues, honestly, much more consequential issues than being there for particular hearings on a subject that may or may not be relevant to what’s going on.”