Politics
2:00 pm
Tue August 7, 2012

McConnell Confronted With Tea Party Criticism

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is defending his leadership role against conservative critics.

Later this month, McConnell will join fellow Kentucky Senator Rand Paul at a Tea Party rally in the state Capitol. The two are expected to discuss President Obama’s health care law, which has been a punching bag for GOP leaders since its passage.

But observers have noted that McConnell has been at odds with the Tea Party movement since its launch three years ago.

Speaking with WHAS radio host Mandy Connell on Tuesday, McConnell said he has addressed Tea Party groups before and their support is important to have.

"My view is the Tea Party is an important part of the conservative base. If you look at my record leading the opposition to the president over the last three and a half years, I’ve got a lot of support among Tea Party members and I don’t view this as a potentially hostile experience," he says.

Several conservative activists, such as RedState.com editor and CNN contributor Erick Erickson, however, have criticized McConnell’s leadership of the Senate.

From RedState.com:

Mitch McConnell’s remark is just another example of him being vastly overrated as both a strategist and tactician. He claims to have advanced the conservative cause, but told Laura he has to be mindful that to govern Republicans must reach out to all Americans.

Perhaps that is why in 2010, with the rise of the tea party, Mitch McConnell backed Arlen Specter against Pat Toomey, Charlie Crist against Marco Rubio (McConnell staffers went to Florida to help Crist), Robert Bennett against Mike Lee, and Trey Grayson against Rand Paul.

McConnell has dismissed this tension in the past as a minority view within the Tea Party, but among its most loyal supporters there is vocal criticism that McConnell is the establishment and part of the problem in Washington.

The fall election will not only settle on who voters will send to the White House for the next four years, but could change the leadership in the Senate. With the majority leadership role in grasp, McConnell still faces questions on where he stands in relation to that faction of his party.

Connell specifically mentioned that disconnect and said McConnell was not "an early adopted of the Tea Party platform", asking if he was in line with their philosophy.

McConnell said he understands the Tea Party frustration, but defended his role by adding that voters have never given the GOP a big enough majority to get its full agenda through.

"Your point was why haven't I been able to get enough results. The answer to that is we haven’t had enough votes. We have elections in this country and the winners get to make policy and the losers go home," he says. "And the Democrats have had Congress sometimes with whopping majorities, most of the time since the New Deal."

The Tea Party rally featuring McConnell and Paul is scheduled for August 21.

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