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Media Stakeout with Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader


Location: Washington, DC

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SEN. MCCONNELL: Okay, good afternoon, everyone. If you were to take a snapshot right now of where the Senate is, it would be a little bit confusing, so let me talk about forest instead of the trees.

The big picture is that there's an overwhelming likelihood that by the end of the week, the Senate will have passed a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act on a bipartisan basis. And by the end of the week, the Senate will have passed the stimulus bill on a bipartisan basis.

We're having some sparring back and forth, as you know, between the two sides over the scheduling problems that we've had. As I think you will all remember, last week, we had a vote on Monday, then sat around Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with no votes at all. And then we're here on Monday and Tuesday of this week, when it had been suggested earlier that we would not be here on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

So we've had some fits and starts, but the fundamental point I want to make is, these are two important measures. They're two important measures that have large support, bipartisan support, both of which are likely to pass the Senate and go over to the House before the end of the week.


Q Senator McConnell, Senator Durbin offered unanimous consent to go to FISA today last night on the floor, and Senator Kyl objected. What was wrong with that? You could be voting on FISA today.

SEN. MCCONNELL: We're -- rather than getting into who objected to what -- I think you can find objections on both sides to various procedures. Looking back, if I were in your shoes, I'd be looking back and saying what is the problem here. The problem here is that we've not been given the assurances that we need to be given with regard to the stimulus package.

I think that will happen at some point. And I know you all have to meet deadlines and file stories based upon what's happened at the particular moment, but we go through these fits and starts in the Senate. It's fairly common, fairly routine. At the end of the week, my prediction remains we're likely to pass both of these bills on a bipartisan basis and send them over to the House.


Q Senator, does the Finance Committee's package deserve to be the bill that goes to the president? And have you heard from the White House on it?

SEN. MCCONNELL: Our preference is going to be the House bill with some modifications, and that's the amendment that Senator Stevens and I will be offering. And the majority leader is in a parliamentary position to prevent that if he chose to. However, he's been arguing for two weeks that the House bill by itself was inadequate. And so if the package that he prefers is not successful, then it would be an absurd position to argue that what he's been -- to argue that the House bill ought to be passed without amendment. So what Senator Stevens and I will do, at the very least, is offer a modified version of an amendment to the House package that will cover seniors, disabled veterans, and fix the immigration issue that the administration believes exists, which is, you could be in a position of sending checks to illegal immigrants. I think most people do not think that's appropriate, and that needs to be fixed.

Q Is the White House leaving it to you to -- you here on Hill to decide?

SEN. MCCONNELL: I'm sorry?

Q Is the White House leaving it to you up here on the Hill to decide?

SEN. MCCONNELL: Yeah, I don't take orders from the White House, but we are interested in getting a presidential signature. You know, the reason Speaker Pelosi and Leader Boehner came together with the administration is they were interested, as Senator Cornyn just pointed out, in getting something done quickly. So the president's veto is not -- veto pen is not irrelevant. We'd like to get some results here. And we think the best way to do that, since the bill will have to go back to the House anyway, is to fix these three problems and see where the votes are then. And if the votes are in favor of it, as I believe and expect they will be, then it'll go back to the House. Hopefully they'll pass it and it'll go straight to the president for signature.

Q Senator McConnell, it seems like -- it seems the rebate structure has to change. Can you talk about the need to still stay within the $158 billion number, what you're doing for the rebates in turn?

And does the White House -- I'm just a little confused. Does the White House support what you're doing?

SEN. MCCONNELL: That's a very good question. The issue on the size of the package -- I think the majority of the people in my conference believe that we ought to keep the package at the one-five- oh, the 150 (billion dollar) figure, which is roughly 1 percent of the gross domestic product. We're in discussion with House Republicans and others about the issue of whether to cap it at that level or to expand it.

I can't give you a final decision on that, but I do believe the majority view in my conference is that we ought to keep the overall figure where it is.

Q (Off mike) -- gets to that point you have -- (off mike) -- Finance package. Are you confident that you will keep 60 votes, or at least five more Republicans, I guess, away from that bill?

SEN. MCCONNELL: Well, we're optimistic that the Finance bill with the plus-ups -- it's not exactly the Finance bill -- will not be successful. And at that point the issue will be whether we want to do something quickly or not.

Thank you.

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