Mitch McConnell slams media coverage of election security: "We can't let modern-day McCarthyism win"

"Here is my commitment: No matter how much they lie, no matter how much they bully, I will not be intimidated"

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published July 30, 2019 12:00PM (EDT)

Russian President Vladimir Putin; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (AP/Getty/Salon)
Russian President Vladimir Putin; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (AP/Getty/Salon)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delivered a fiery speech Monday denouncing what he described as "modern-day McCarthyism" in the wake of criticism over his decision to block election security legislation in the upper chamber.

"Keeping our republic means we can't let modern-day McCarthyism win," McConnell said on the Senate floor as he criticized "liberal media" coverage of his move. "So here is my commitment: No matter how much they lie, no matter how much they bully, I will not be intimidated."

"For decades, I've used my Senate seat to stand up to Russia and protect the United States of America. I'm proud of my record. I'm proud that it's right there in black and white, and liars cannot gaslight it away. In the 1980s, as a freshman senator, I proudly stood with President Reagan on missile defense and other aspects of his Soviet policy. While the liberal media was shrieking — shrieking — that Reagan-Bush foreign policy wouldn't work, I was honored to support it with my vote and then watch communism crumble."

He added, "Then in the 1990s, I used my place on the State Foreign Subcommittee to sound the alarm that President Clinton was too soft on Russia."

McConnell also defended his decision to bar attempts by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., to pass election security legislation in the Senate by unanimous consent.

"These theatrical requests happen all the time here on the Senate. I promise that nobody involved, including my friend the Democratic leader who made the request, actually thought he’d get a Republican Senate to instantly, unanimously pass a bill that got one Republican vote over in the House," McConnell said during his speech.

"It doesn’t make Republicans traitors or un-American," he continued. "It makes us policymakers with a different opinion."

Schumer pushed back forcefully following McConnell's decision to invoke the Red Scare.

"If Leader McConnell doesn't like being criticized on election security, I challenge him: Let's debate it on the floor with amendments. I challenge him: Support additional appropriations for states to harden their election systems. In both cases, Leader McConnell has not done that," Schumer said. "In fact, he has said he opposes more money to the states, even though they say — I believe it is 21 attorneys general have said they need more money. Leader McConnell, despite our requests, has not only blocked unanimous consent requests but has not put any other legislation on the floor to deal with this."

"Again, I repeat this should not be a political issue. This should not be a political issue," the Democratic leader continued. "Whether you're a Democrat, Republican, independent, whether you're a liberal, conservative, in between, you should despise the fact — any American should despise the fact — that Russia has interfered in our elections and is attempting to do so again."

During his testimony last week before the House Judiciary Committee, former special counsel Robert Mueller stated that "there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American."

Despite the unanimous agreement from the American intelligence community that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, Trump has frequently pushed back on those findings.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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