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Fox News Channeel

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Location: Washington, DC

FOX NEWS CHANNEL INTERVIEW WITH SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER

MR. SMITH: The Senate now hours away from voting on Washington's monumental $700 billion rescue plan for the U.S. economy. We watched earlier this week as that bill imploded when put to a vote in the House of Representatives.

Just moments ago we heard the Democrats' take on the revised plan from New York Senator Chuck Schumer. With us now, and only on Fox, to offer the Republican side of the situation, the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, the senator who had a direct role in getting this bill to the Senate floor tonight. Senator, thanks for being here.

SEN. MCCONNELL: Glad to be with you, Shep.

MR. SMITH: It's my sense from reading lots and lots of e-mails, as -- guessing you and your staff have done -- that conservative Republicans are against this philosophically, and they're -- it's a very difficult time selling them on it. How do you begin that process?

SEN. MCCONNELL: Well, let me say this. The most conservative think tank in town, the Heritage Foundation, is for this plan. Newt Gingrich was asked if he would vote for it if he were here, and he said he would. There are plenty of conservatives who think that this is the best way to deal with this particular emergency that has arisen.

And you indicated Schumer was giving the Democratic side. Well, actually there are both sides here together. This is a classic example of bipartisan cooperation. Senator Reid and I work together. The two presidential candidates are coming back to support the package. I think the American people see on display here a good example of broad bipartisan support.

And again, at the risk of being redundant, if you've got the most conservative think tank in town, the Heritage Foundation, for it, I think that ought to be comforting to a number of conservatives.

MR. SMITH: Tell us the difference, to the degree you can, between this bill and the one that failed in the House.

SEN. MCCONNELL: It's not dramatically different. What we did is add on top of it the raising of the insurance limit, the FDIC limits, from 100,000 (dollars) to 250,000 (dollars) for one year. And we also added to it a very popular extension of a lot of tax provisions that had previously passed the Senate with over 90 votes. We added that to the package. I think that will make the overall package attractive not only here in the Senate but it will be a greater attraction to a number of members over in the House as well, in both the Democratic and Republican Party over there.

MR. SMITH: Is it your sense that the most conservative among you are going to vote for this? Do we still have indications that some still believe this is socialism? And how do convince people that it's not?

SEN. MCCONNELL: Well, I mean -- (chuckles) -- it is a government intervention. This has happened in the past. You don't lightly do that, but this is an emergency. It's a crisis. And so we are putting together a package here that gives the government an opportunity here to calm the markets, to unfreeze the credit markets. Right now people can't borrow money. I mean, it's jammed up. It's clogged up. I think that's an appropriate role for government. It'll be temporary. The government will be able to sell off a number of these assets and recoup a lot of the money that people are saying is going to be spent. We don't know whether it'll able to recover all of it or not, but experts believe it'll be able to recover much of it.

So it's a temporary crisis intervention, something we hate to do but is necessary in this particular circumstance.

MR. SMITH: Senator, I -- the mail is gross, sometimes, and I've just gotten one from a guy who really hates me. And he's been writing me a long time, so I know how much he hates me. His name is Bob Harbert (sp). And he says, "Hey, Shep, you're doing a great job of fear-mongering and educating us poor, ignorant slobs out there who just don't understand. Great job. I'm going to write to my senators immediately and tell them that I want to vote for this corporate welfare program because I don't want the sky to fall on me."

A lot of people seem to believe that the whole lot is just crying wolf and that they're trying to just bail out their buddies down on Rich Street in Rich City.

SEN. MCCONNELL: Well, of course that's not true. I mean, the Wall Street people are not going to get away with anything. This is about Main Street, not Wall Street. And the people that I'm hearing from the last few days, once the shock of the market drop on Monday sunk in, are very Main Street people, people who can't float municipal bonds, auto dealers who can't sell cars because the credit markets are frozen. This is not about Wall Street, this is about Main Street and getting America's economy functioning again. And you have to be able to get credit in order to function, in order to meet payroll, in order to float municipal bonds, in order to sell automobiles and the rest. This is to unclog the system, Shep, and get America moving again.

MR. SMITH: Senator Mitch McConnell, best of luck to you and to all of you there. Thank you, sir, very much.

SEN. MCCONNELL: Thank you, Shep.

END.


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