McConnell and McGrath face off in first Senate debate

Photo of Mitch McConnell and Amy McGrath.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democrat Amy McGrath discussed issues such as the handling COVID-19, the Supreme Court Justice nominee and the Black Lives Matter protests in Monday night’s debate.

The first subject up for debate was the way COVID-19 was handled by the federal government. McConnell put blame on the House of Representatives, specifically Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

In a rebuttal, McGrath said she did not think the President, the White House and Congress did a good job with coronavirus relief.

“We have 213,000 Americans dead in nine months, and Senator McConnell thinks we’ve done a good job?” McGrath said.

McConnell mentioned he believes that the House isn’t putting effort into handling the pandemic because of the proximity to the election.

“The Speaker of the House has clearly not been interested in getting an outcome. That’s why the talks have gone on for a while,” McConnell said. “[McGrath] just chooses to blame the Republican Senate, when obviously the biggest part of the problem has been the Democratic House. I’m saying, ‘Why can’t you guys get together?’ and I think the answer is the proximity to the election has slowed the process.”

The moderator asked about managing the economy in the midst of COVID-19 and flu season approaching. McConnell focused on the need for a vaccine.

“We’re going to get a vaccine in the most rapid period of time that this has ever been done without cutting any corners, and the honest answer is until we get a vaccine, we can’t entirely put this behind us,” McConnell said. “We’ve got a resurgence here in Kentucky, a resurgence around the country… The coronavirus is not going to go away until we can kill it. And it’s going to take the vaccine to do that.”

Another controversial issue during the debate was the nomination of a new Supreme Court justice nomination and the dividing feelings about whether Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat should be replaced after her death. McConnell focuses on McGrath wanting to change which party controls the Senate.

“My opponent said she is the most progressive in Kentucky,” McConnell said. “What does that mean? That means they want to stack the Supreme Court. In other words as numbers, so they can get an outcome they like. She wants to make the District of Columbia State, Puerto Rico a state, get rid of the filibuster in the Senate. In short, it’s not a dime’s worth of difference between my opponent and all the national democrats that you’ve watched.”

While McConnell said McGrath, along with the rest of the Democratic Party, wanted to “pack the Supreme Court”, McGrath said we should work on “unpacking” the court instead. She slammed McConnell for making the supreme court nomination a “partisan mess.”

Included in the supreme court discussion were the concerns of Roe v. Wade possibly being overturned if Amy Coney Barrett became a Supreme Court justice.

“Well I’m pro-life,” McConnell said. “And enjoy the right to life. Every president has been surprised by supreme court nominees that they’ve put up have voted, no one knows what may happen with any nominee.”

The next topic up for debate was the verdict of the Breonna Taylor case and the many protests by people who felt justice had not been served.

McConnell said that he has a great tolerance for the peaceful demonstrations as they are protected by the constitution. As for the Taylor case, he said although her death was a tragedy, law enforcement is doing the best they can.

“I’m a strong supporter of law enforcement,” McConnell said. “I enjoy the support of the Fraternal Order of Police in Kentucky. I don’t think it’s appropriate to condemn all police officers, some of them are bad, but it’s not appropriate to defund the police or demonize police officers in general.”

Police reform has also been a heavily debated topic, especially in light of the Black Lives Matter movement. McConnell focused on the criminal justice bills he’s introduced to Congress, including the Justice Act, and how they have not been passed by democrats.

“[The Justice Act] was drafted largely by Tim Scott, my Republican colleague from South Carolina and African American himself, who’s experienced the kind of extra suspicion that African Americans are frequently given,” McConnell said. “He crafted a bill and we thought it made a lot of sense. Put it on the floor of the Senate, we couldn’t get a single democrat to even let us take it up and debated and amended. So here was another example of how democrats in the Congress, the last few months, have not wanted anything to succeed.”

McGrath made it clear that she did not support defunding the police.

“As somebody who wore the uniform, did three combat tours protecting our country and the mother of three small children, I have to say that I’m never for looting or rioting or destruction of property or violence in any way,” McGrath said. “I do not want to defund the police.”

McGrath also slammed McConnell for making excuses as to why the GOP bill for police reform did not pass.

“He’s not just a member of the Senate,” McGrath said. “He’s the Senate Majority Leader and he still can’t get it done.”

In his last opportunity to speak during the debate, McConnell wrapped up making several points about what would happen if McGrath were to win this election.

“My opponent seems not to be bothered by the fact that Joe Biden has been in Washington 47 years,” McConnell said. “He’d been there 12 years before I got there, I think it’s important not to be confused about what this election is about. Number one, if my opponent replaces me. Our first vote in the Senate will be to make Chuck Schumer from New York. The majority leader of the Senate, setting the agenda for the Senate will include changing the rules of the Senate to make it easier for liberals to win. Then they all make the ultimate swamp, the District of Columbia, a state, giving influence peddlers and lobbyists to senators, just like Kentucky. And then they’ll do that for Puerto Rico, as well. That’s for new liberal democratic senators in perpetuity.”

McGrath took the opportunity to stress to viewers why she should be elected.

“I wanna be your senator because you deserve better,” McGrath said. “This is the most important election of our lifetime. It would be my privilege to serve you.”

Debra Murray can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @debramurrayy

Kelley Holland can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @kelleyaholland.