McConnell criticizes Biden, makes no mention of Trump in Shelbyville luncheon speech

Kentucky Lantern

SHELBYVILLE — U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell stressed his support for continued U.S. aid to Ukraine in its war with Russia during a speech Wednesday to a luncheon crowd in Shelbyville. 

The Shelby County Farm Bureau and Shelby County Chamber of Commerce hosted the gathering. McConnell, whose parents moved to Shelbyville later in life, has spoken at similar events in the past. 

McConnell, who is Kentucky’s longest serving U.S. senator, reiterated that he views his  impact on the U.S. judicial system as one of his greatest accomplishments. 

McConnell, also the longest party leader in U.S. Senate history, blocked President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016, paving the way for President Donald Trump to appoint Justice Neil Gorsuch. Trump also appointed 54 appeals court judges during his term with McConnell’s aid.

“​​I think the men and women who are now on the Supreme Court, and those that are in the circuit court positions, are doing what’s in the best interest of the country and that’s the best way to push back against administrative overreach,” McConnell said in response to a question from the crowd. 

McConnell endorsed Trump’s current presidential campaign last month after Trump’s victories in the Super Tuesday primaries in March made him the presumptive GOP nominee. The two have often been at odds in Washington. McConnell once blamed the former president for “disgraceful” acts sparking the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. More recently, Trump said he was unsure if he could work with McConnell in a second term. In February, McConnell announced he plans to step down as the Senate Republican Leader later this year. 

Although he did not name Trump, McConnell briefly discussed the 2024 presidential election after criticizing President Joe Biden’s administration for “making it difficult” for a liquefied natural gas terminal to be built in Louisiana to transport natural gas to Europe, which would cut into demand for natural gas from Russia. McConnell said Biden undermines his own case for continued aid to Ukraine by opposing the facility for exporting America’s gas,  

“We’re going to have an election this year and the American people are going to have to decide which direction they want to go,” McConnell said. 

Much of McConnell’s speech focused on international issues. He criticized the Biden administration for the  “dramatic, botched withdrawal” from Afghanistan in 2020. He said it was “like sending a message to every tyrant in the world, ‘Why don’t you choose now to go after what you want to?’” McConnell said that included Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

“It may not be fashionable now, but I’m a Ronald Reagan Republican: ‘Peace through strength,’” McConnell said. 

The U.S. Senate Republican leader’s stop followed his Monday introduction of Alabama Republican U.S. Sen. Katie Britt before she gave a lecture for the McConnell Center in Louisville. He had referred to Britt as his “favorite freshman” senator and spoke highly of her again Wednesday while talking to reporters. 

“She’s already a pretty big star,” McConnell said. “She’s going to be even bigger in the coming years.” 

He also spoke of issues in Washington, such as the two articles of impeachment against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the House will send to the Senate. He said he expects New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, to file a motion to dismiss or to table the impeachment. 

“And the Democrats have a majority, so it may not go on very long,” McConnell added. “But my preference would be to actually have a trial, but I think the majority is likely to prevent that.”

The race to replace McConnell as leader of the Senate Republican caucus has begun. Senate Minority Whip John Thune, of South Dakota, and former whip John Cornyn, of Texas, have announced their intention to run to replace him. 

“We’ve got a contest going on for my job and I don’t have a preference,” McConnell said when asked what qualities the next Republican leader should have.

He added that he would work with his successor. 

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell answers a question from the audience during an event in Shelbyville. (Kentucky Lantern photo by McKenna Horsley)

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