Alison Lundergan Grimes, Mitch McConnell (Credit: AP/Timothy D. Easley/Manuel Balce Ceneta/Photo collage by Salon)
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is a conflicted man. He’s up for reelection in November, and his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, is working hard to tie him to the 2011 budget plan released by Rep. Paul Ryan. That budget, which would have privatized Medicare and block-granted Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It had all the hallmarks of a Ryan budget – deep cuts to social safety net programs, tax breaks for the wealthy, magical economic thinking – and was pretty popular among Republicans across Capitol Hill. But McConnell, who was among the Republicans who backed the plan, is now trying to argue that he wouldn’t necessarily have supported the Ryan budget.
Here’s a quick rundown of the campaign back-and-forth. Grimes released an ad earlier this week attacking McConnell for voting for the Ryan plan, saying it would have raised a retired Kentucky coal miner’s Medicare costs by $6,000. FactCheck.org looked at the ad and called the claim a “distortion,” since Ryan’s proposed changes to Medicare likely wouldn’t have affected the miner in question. As to McConnell’s vote, they noted that McConnell voted for a procedural motion to bring the Ryan plan up for consideration. The vote failed, and the McConnell campaign told FactCheck.org “there is no way to speculate if [McConnell] would have voted for final passage without having debated amendments.”
In response to that claim, Grimes’ campaign put out yet another ad documenting that McConnell’s appearance on Meet the Press in May 2011 in which he said – twice – “I voted for the Ryan budget this week.”
So what are we to think? Grimes’ campaign went too far in describing what the impact of Ryan’s budget would have been, but McConnell’s campaign is now trying to portray their guy’s support of the Ryan budget as an open question, clouded by uncertainty. Is there really “no way to speculate” on what McConnell would have done had he been given the opportunity to vote for final passage?
Absolutely not! The McConnell campaign’s cutesy hair-splitting notwithstanding, there weren’t many people on the Senate side of the Capitol more enthusiastic about Paul Ryan’s 2011 budget plan than Mitch McConnell, and his remarks from the Senate floor make that abundantly clear.
Here, in chronological order, is every floor speech Mitch McConnell gave in support of Ryan’s plan in 2011. Over the course of two months, he described Ryan plan as “serious,” “detailed,” and one that “every serious person has described as both honest and courageous.” “Courage” and “honesty” actually popped up a lot in McConnell’s description of Ryan’s plan – McConnell even said at one point that “thinking people have seen in the Ryan plan an honest attempt to tackle our problems head on.”