Addison Mitchell "Mitch" McConnell, Jr. (born February 20, 1942) is the senior United States Senator from Kentucky. He was chosen by his Republican colleagues as the Minority Leader in November 2006, making him the top-ranking Republican in the 110th Congress, which convened January 3, 2007. McConnell is a staunch advocate of conservative principles, receiving a perfect score from the American Conservative Union in 2006. McConnell is running for re-election in 2008.
"When I was two years old, I came down with an infection that felt a lot like the flu. But after the fever passed, my left leg had gone lame. For two years my mother put me through a physical therapy regimen taught to her by the doctors at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation, founded by President Roosevelt in Warm Springs, Georgia. From age two to four, I was not allowed to walk or run. But after two years of my mother's care, I was able to have a normal life. A lot of kids at that time, in the 1940s, weren't so lucky. Some were paralyzed for life. Some were sentenced to the iron lung. Many died."
McConnell was raised in south Louisville, Kentucky, he attended duPont Manual High School and in 1964 graduated with honors from the University of Louisville College of Arts and Sciences, where he was student body president and member of Phi Kappa Tau. He graduated in 1967 from the University of Kentucky College of Law, where he was elected president of the Student Bar Association.
McConnell became a member of the 100th Training Unit, United States Army Reserve, Louisville, Kentucky, during his final semester of law school, and reported for his six months of active service, primarily for training, in July 1967. After induction at Fort Knox, Kentucky, McConnell was diagnosed with optic neuritis, and was released from the military in August with an honorable discharge.
McConnell is a member of the Baptist Church. He married Elaine Chao, the current Secretary of Labor, in 1993, and has three grown daughters from his first marriage. McConnell's first wife worked as a librarian for a small college in the Northeast.
In 1990, McConnell faced a tough reelection contest against former Louisville mayor Harvey I. Sloane, winning by 4.5 points. He soundly defeated Steve Beshear in 1996, even as Bill Clinton narrowly carried the state. In keeping with a tradition of humorous and effective television ads in his campaigns, McConnell's campaign ran television ads in 1996 that warned voters to not "Get Besheared" and included images of sheep being sheared. In 2002, he was reelected with the largest majority by a Republican candidate in Kentucky history.
Although he is an ardent conservative, he has distanced himself from the majority in his party by opposing the Flag Desecration Amendment, arguing against modifying the United States Constitution to address "every political and social ill" the nation faces. He has, however, sponsored legislation that would illegalize flag burning but without a constitutional amendment.
McConnell has expressed strong support for the First Amendment. For example, McConnell has expressed strong opposition to the Fairness Doctrine, which he believes would squelch freedom of speech on talk radio.
McConnell is also well known for his opposition to campaign finance regulation on First Amendment grounds. He argues that regulations reduce participation in political campaigns and protect incumbents from competition. He spearheaded the movement against the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (known since 1995 as the "McCain-Feingold bill" and from 1989-1994 as the "Boren-Mitchell bill"), calling it "neither fair, nor balanced, nor constitutional. His opposition to the bill culminated in the 2003 Supreme Court case McConnell v. Federal Election Commission.
In August 2007 McConnell introduced the Protect America Act of 2007, which allowed the National Security Agency to monitor telephone and electronic communications of individuals inside and outside the United States without obtaining a warrant.
McConnell remains one of the strongest supporters of the American invasion of Iraq, which he considers a central part of the War on Terrorism. He holds the view that the violence in Iraq is perpetrated primarily by al-Qaeda and other international jihadists who would otherwise be engaged in terrorist actions within the United States. In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper on January 10, 2007 (after President Bush's announcement of an escalation in troop levels in Iraq), McConnell claimed that the war in Iraq was a success because it had prevented terrorist attacks in the U.S. since the September 11 attacks. He warned that if the United States withdrew from Iraq, "the terrorists would come after us where we live."
In 1996, Senator McConnell demanded that President Clinton allow White House aides to testify under oath. On April 1, 2007, Chris Wallace claimed that McConnell's stance on Karl Rove and Harriet Miers testifying under oath in relation to the Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy was contradictory. Wallace asked, "In 1996, you were saying those White House aides should testify in open hearing. These were White House aides of Bill Clinton, in open hearing under oath. Why shouldn't the same rules apply for the Bush White House and people like Karl Rove?" McConnell replied, "And what I’m telling you is the president's going to make that decision."
Senator McConnell was also the writer of the Gas Price Reduction Act. The GPRA calls for more offshore and domestic oil exploration, to try to curb rising gas prices.
However, regarding the failure of the Iraqi government to make reforms, McConnell said the following on Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer: "The Iraqi government is a huge disappointment. Republicans overwhelmingly feel disappointed about the Iraqi government. I read just this week that a significant number of the Iraqi parliament want to vote to ask us to leave. I want to assure you, Wolf, if they vote to ask us to leave, we'll be glad to comply with their request.
On the June 17, 2007, edition of CBS News' Face the Nation, McConnell said, "Most members of my conference in the Senate believe [that September will be] the critical point to evaluate where we are ... I think everybody anticipates that there's going to be a new strategy in the fall. I find growing support in the Senate among Republicans, and for that matter, some Democrats as well, for the recommendations of the [Baker-Hamilton] Iraq Study Group
On July 9, 2007, in Hopkinsville, Kentucky at Fort Campbell, speaking to a contingent of troops about to ship out for a 15-month deployment to Iraq, McConnell said, "The majority of the public has decided the Iraq effort is not worth it," he said. "That puts a lot of pressure on Congress to act because public opinion in a democracy is not irrelevant.
McConnell is facing re-election in 2008 against Democratic nominee Bruce Lunsford. In October, Lunsford and McConnell were tied in the polls. On June 25, former actor Sonny Landham (48 Hrs., Predator) announced his intention to seek the Libertarian nomination to challenge McConnell and Lunsford.
|Mitch McConnell (R) (inc.)|
|Bruce Lunsford (D)|
United States Senate election in Kentucky, 2002
|Mitch McConnell (R) (inc.) 64.7%|
|Lois Combs Weinberg (D) 35.3%|
United States Senate election in Kentucky, 1996
|Mitch McConnell (R) (inc.) 55.5%|
|Steve Beshear (D) 42.8%|
|Dennis L. Lacy (Lib.) 0.7%|
|Patricia Jo Metten (Natural Law) 0.6%|
|Mac McElroy (U.S. Taxpayers) 0.4%|
United States Senate election in Kentucky, 1990
|Mitch McConnell (R) (inc.) 52.2%|
|Harvey I. Sloane (D) 47.8%|
United States Senate election in Kentucky, 1984
|Mitch McConnell (R) 49.9%|
|Walter Huddleston (D) (inc.) 49.5%|
|Dave Welters (Socialist Workers) 0.6%|
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