U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell agrees with Obama's take on Ferguson but not much else

11/25/2014 11:44 PM

BUCKNER — Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell doesn’t agree with President Barack Obama often, but he said Tuesday the president is correct in his assessment of the turmoil surrounding a Missouri grand jury’s decision to not indict a white police officer who gunned down an unarmed black teen.

Moments after a St. Louis grand jury’s decision against indicting Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in August, Obama said the protests surround the inaction show “broader challenges that we still face as a nation.”

“The fact is in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color,” Obama said Monday.

Asked for his reaction to the president’s remarks, McConnell said Obama is right.

“We’re always in the process of trying to improve our relations with each other in this country, and every time we have one of these episodes it reminds us that we’ve got a long way to go.” McConnell told reporters after addressing the Oldham County Chamber of Commerce and LaGrange Rotary Club.

McConnell called the incident “a great tragedy all the way around for the young man, for the family.”

“I think the relatives asking for restraint was a very responsible thing for them to do,” he said. “A difficult situation all the way around, and our hearts go out to everybody who was involved in it.”

While McConnell agreed with the president on the tense situation in Ferguson, Mo., the Senate majority leader-elect was less harmonious on issues such as nuclear talks with Iran and Obama’s proposed executive actions on immigration reform.

Talks between the U.S. and Iran broke down Monday, with the deadline to reach an agreement on the Iranian nuclear program extended seven months. McConnell said the talks demonstrate the Obama administration’s weakened bargaining power as some sanctions against Iran are lifted with the continued talks.

To forge a resolution, McConnell said Iran should face stricter sanctions if an accord isn’t reached.

“One of the things that we may decide to do next year is to bring onto the floor what we were advocating all year ought to be done, which was to say to the Iranians, ‘OK, at the end of this next set of talks, if we don’t get an outcome, you get worse sanctions,’” McConnell said during the meeting.

Iran isn’t the only Middle East issue causing heartburn in Congress. Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul proposed a declaration of war against the militant Islamic State, with a one-year campaign that limits the use of ground troops, according to a report Sunday by The New York Times.

The U.S. has not formally declared war since World War II, the newspaper reported.

McConnell stopped short of endorsing Paul’s plan, but he said the Senate will be “discussing the appropriate way forward” on combating the militant group.

“Probably what we’ll end up doing is what’s called as authorization for the use of military force, and there are a variety of different suggestions that are being made,” he told reporters. “I don’t think we’re going to deal with that issue until after the new majority’s in place.”

The Republican senator again criticized Obama for taking executive action on immigration, which would allow some undocumented immigrants who’ve lived in the U.S. for five years to apply for temporary stays and work permits.

The president’s executive orders could hamper an already sensitive subject on Capitol Hill, McConnell said.

“This is a hard enough issue anyway without the president doing precisely what he has said publicly and repeatedly multiple times over the last two years that he couldn’t do,” McConnell said during the meeting.

“… I can’t predict for you how this movie ends. I will say this: It’s pretty obvious that the current immigration system is broken. It’s pretty obvious the border is not secure, and nothing the president did on his own will be permanent, so I don’t know what he’s achieved here other than just to make a particular interest group feel happy for a short period of time.”

McConnell reiterated his stance that Obama’s actions put immigration reform on a “much more difficult” path in Congress.

“We’ll have to wait and assess the issue later,” he told reporters.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.