Profile of Senator Mitch Mc Connell CSPAN February 24, 2019 1:33pm-2:57pm EST
opposition to the proposed t-mobile sprint merger. he is joined by executive senior editor -- >> we think it is a bad idea. we do get will destroy about 30,000 jobs in the united states for a german government owned company and the japanese billionaire company. we'll see what the german government or japanese billionaire's should seek to off of american jobs. that is with the merger will do. c-spanh monday night on two. >> someone once told president george w. bush that you were excited over a certain vote and he said, really? how can you tell? so why so few words? senator mcconnell: well i'm not
afraid of talking, but i've found i learn more by listening. frequently i start out listening and i think about what i want to say before i do it. i think it's fair to say that i'm in the era of trump probably very different approach to commenting on public affairs. host: that was mitch mcconnell in 2016 talking about his memoir "the long game." he is now the longest serving republican congressional leader in history, and our goal over the next hour or so is to look at his senate career and his
rise to leadership and power. to help us do that, we'll use the c-span video archives. we're also going to talk with two long-time congressional watchers, sahil kapur with bloomberg news and paul kane with "the washington post." mr. kane, you've been around this town almost as long as mitch mcconnell has. what is his reputation in the political class? >> i think what he was just telling senator alexander there is thumbs up his sort of demeanor and the way he is always thinking, and sometimes people who interview with him, if the old-timers from mcconnell's staff really like him, they will get the final word of advice will be when you meet the boss, if he's just staring, don't feel like you need to fill in the air. don't feel like you need to keep talking. he is just processing and thinking what his next phrase
will be. he is constantly a strategic tactician. you look at any sort of profile of him and strategy and tactics are the first thing that always come to mind. and extreme discipline. we'll get into this probably at some point, but he grew up with polio and battled polio throughout his childhood. sort of conquering that, later in life physically and then sort of mentally, mcconnell always sort of practiced what he called the long game. he was always thinking about the next step ahead and the step after that and the step after that because as a child he literally had to in order to get around the house to get around the school, and that sort of is his hallmark now all these years later here in the capitol. host: sahil kapur, what do you want to add? mr. kapur: mcconnell is a
politician who certainly thinks much more than he speaks. he has the reputation of being a master of the senate. that is accurate. he is a master at shaping how people view politics. he understands the legislative tools and levers people use. my favorite example is his efforts during the obama white house, during the obama white house to normalize the legislative filibuster on pieces of legislation. it was used before that. he wasn't the first to do it but he took it to a level not seen before, and he is the reason we say things like it takes 60 votes to pass a bill in the senate. before that it remained the case, but not every piece of legislation. mcconnell understood by mounting that level of obstruction to the obama agenda, it would convey to the voters that something extraordinary was happening, and it would split the democratic base because they wouldn't be
able to pass as many pieces of legislation and would unite his party against them. that is an enormous impact on what barack obama was able to do. host: what is it like to cover him on capitol hill? mr. kapur: it is complex in the sense he never speaks in hallways as much as other senators do. he is extremely disciplined about that. one of the rare exceptions to that is when the roy moore news broke, serious allegations of him being a child molester, senator mcconnell gave a speech on the floor. he walked off and spoke to some reporters and said this is reprehensible. we cannot accept this. i cannot support this man. so it's a challenge because he,
like we discussed, he thinks much more than he speaks, and he doesn't always let on what he is thinking. mr. kane: people like chuck schumer, nancy pelosi, before that going back to trent lott, tom daschle, very expressive, would like to try to tell you what they were thinking. try to sort of work the press to spin what -- what we would be reporting on. mcconnell, extreme discipline i'm talking about at a breakfast with reporters in 2010, i believe. he called himself the master of the unexpressed thought. people were trying to get him to
weigh in on something, asking it five different ways, and he has this way of -- he used to say at the risk of being redundant i have nothing further to add. and he would -- he would never -- he rarely steps in it. with his own words. so that makes it difficult. you don't get the sort of stream of consciousness that you get on donald trump's twitter feed. mcconnell has probably never once -- i'd be surprised if he ever even opened the twitter app. he just -- but you know in the end it is all about winning, and he is just trying to win. he wants to win senate seats. he wants -- every vote is calculated at that, at a pure partisan power play. and there are very few figures
up there that are that partisan, that powerful, that will execute in the fashion that he does. mr. kapur: and the rare moments, i should add, where he slips, he speaks a little too much or is talking about that strategy going on, the famous example was again early in the obama years where he told the reporter our single biggest priority is to make barack obama a one-term president. now it doesn't surprise any of us a senate republican leader would want to defeat the democratic incumbent, but the way he said it, our number one priority struck people as a little calloused. really, it is not the economy? not to make things better? it is to defeat this man? in his mind and his private meetings none of this comes as news to anybody, but sometimes it translates differently. host: we will get into that a little later in this hour. i'm going to turn to you at that point when we play a little video and have you look at that. but one of the things we want to do is expose you to the c-span video library. mitch mcconnell has been on c-span since 1986 when we started covering the senate and even prior to that when we still
had cameras out and about town. we'll show you the first time mitch mcconnell appeared in the c-span video archives. he was elected in 1984. this is from 1985. senator mcconnell: actually the people of kentucky elected me for one simple reason, to come to washington and cut out wasteful spending. i'm bringing lots of good kentucky cost-saving ideas here to washington. for example, take education. i've introduced a bill to teach driver education and sex education in the same car. [laughter] senator mcconnell: i guess you noticed richard vickery plans to ride the space shuttle. plans to ride the space shuttle. in fact, they are thinking of making a movie out of it, calling it the far right stuff. tommy robinson led off, and we were talking down behind the podium before we came up. and he was -- we knew he'd be the first of the six freshmen to make our comedy debuts tonight. and just before tommy started speaking, he gathered all six of us together, and he said in all
seriousness, the bombing begins in five minutes. thank you. host: we were watching that, paul kane, a couple chuckles from both of you. mr. kane: first of all, that is just an incredibly young version of mitch mcconnell that, you know, we just don't see anymore. to this day. and it's that really dry humor, and the really dry delivery that is still the same. that hasn't changed at all. you know, his version of a joke is not with a lot of emotion or anything, you know, it is not a chris farley movie with mitch mcconnell. but, you know, it's always been about politics right down to the far right stuff. host: sahil kapur, the fact that mitch mcconnell was kind of protesting against the very
conservative republicans at that point. he still has that issue today? mr. kapur: he came up as a moderate republican. he was a proponent of earmarks and spending, bringing home projects for your district, and he had a talent for doing it. kentucky is a state that has generally relied on federal government subsidies, and he recognized that is part of his role. what struck me about that clip, his body language. he seems so much looser than he seems today. he smiled so much more than i see him smiling today. usually today it is at a press conference when he is unhappy at a question he got. it conveys something different today than it seemed like he was doing there. mr. kane: the fact that he was out and about in washington, does that surprise you? not particularly. he knew what it was to be at the top of his career, the way he is he has to be somewhat public. he has to be there. there are things he has to go to. the way he was making jokes though, i haven't seen in quite sometime. you wouldn't find him at an event like that now today being the sort of emcee joking around because he has already reached his pinnacle. this is the job he always wanted since basically high school or
college. but as a totally -- i totally can see him as a young senator first year in office thinking all right. these are the things that get me ahead. i am playing the long game. i'm going to appear, make jokes, everybody is going to laugh and that is something that will put me on the path. host: most senators look in the -- mr. kapur: most senators look in the mirror and see a president. mcconnell has always seen a senate majority leader. he has never aspired to the white house. host: he brought up a conservative activist still working today, and that is not the only time he has spoken up against the so-called far right. here he is on the floor in 1986 going against a very popular president reagan. sen. mcconnell: as we all know mr. president on june 12, 1986 the south african government imposed sweeping military regulations which granted broad powers to question and detain individuals.
since june 12, 1986 the government has acknowledged detaining close to 10,000 south africans. independent monitoring groups estimate more than 12,000 people have actually been detained, but i'm not here to talk about these statistics as horrifying as they may be. i'd like to take a moment of my colleagues' time to discuss just one victim of apartheid and the state of emergency regulations. the resolution i have introduced concerns the case of dr. abby ncomo. dr. ncomo has been a well respected community leader. my colleagues probably wonder why i would bring the case to their attention. has he distinguished himself in some unusual way? the answer is no. the fact of the matter is dr. ncomo is very much like many other community leaders who advocate including the black majority in the south african political process and in its power. inexplicably, it's just these voices of moderation that the south african government has chosen to harass, detain, and put on trial.
dr. ncomo is representative of thousands of black citizens and leaders who have advocated dialogue with the government, and the government has responded with repression. host: sahil kapur, he voted to override president reagan's veto of south african sanctions. mr. kapur: mcconnell has had a complicated relationship with the conservative flank of his conference. he is not always trusted in part because of his history as a moderate, his affect. he doesn't have the partisan brawler overall attitude some of them i think would like. he is also a deal maker. he is the person who has swooped
in at many moments to try to break issues on issues like government funding and the debt limit. one thing i know the previous democratic white house saw him as is someone who would always deliver when he cut a deal. they did not think the same way of the republican speaker of the house at that time. mcconnell has done things someone in his position who aspires to be the leader of the senate would have to do, and that has led to some distrust among the more ideological members of his party that this is a person who is going to be fighting every step of the way for their goals. mr. kane: he also in this particular issue with south africa, he has had this long standing concern about certain parts of the country -- certain parts of the world -- and been on the side of freedom. burma is -- myanmar is another example of that where he has historically been a real advocate for freedom fighters
there. and he has been on the foreign operations subcommittee, the appropriations committee, and been the top republican along with pat leahy, the top democrat, for decades now. and he has tried to use that perch to try to influence global events, and it has been one of those few areas of policy that he truly does care about. you'll see when we'll talk about campaign finance reform and his fights against that, judges, and some of these global freedom issues.
mr. kapur: we saw that just recently when he brought up a resolution that very clearly rebuked the trump white house as it was considering a speedy troop withdrawal. the president had more democratic supporters than republicans on that resolution as mcconnell was very forceful about not quickly withdrawing troops. host: is it common for a majority leader or a minority leader of the senate to serve on committees as well? mr. kane: as we tape today, he actually appeared at the senate rules committee because they were debating internal senate rules of real mcconnell love that he has, and it was about judicial confirmations and speeding up judicial and
executive branch confirmations. it's rare for them to actually show up at a committee hearing, to actually maintain their spot. usually, you know, i think harry reid removed himself from all of the committees and sort of held a marker at the appropriations committee in case he ever wanted to go back to his committees. mcconnell has actually stayed on them. host: he is on the agriculture committee. mr. kane: ag, appropriations, senate rules. i think it is those three. usually the leader gives up that spot because he or she is looking to get a vote from somebody, and it's that favor of, ok. peter, i really need you to vote for me on this, and i've decided i am going to give up my seat on this important committee, and magically you might get appointed to the committee. that is usually what happens. mcconnell has maintained his spot there, and in some degree people think that if eventually he wins another term and serves another six years, that maybe some day he would be sort of leader emeritus and go back to his committees the way robert byrd did when he left as majority leader at the end of 1988 but stuck around the senate another 20, 21 years. host: paul kane mentioned that the judiciary is something mitch mcconnell is very interested in. this goes back to 1986. you'll recognize supreme court chief justice william rehnquist. this was at his hearing for chief justice. senator mcconnell: thank you mr.
chairman. being in the same committee hearing room with justice rehnquist gives me a sense of dejavu. we've been here before. going back to 1969 when i was an assistant to a senator on this committee, and you were assistant attorney general, we were working on what some would argue were rather controversial supreme court nominations in those days, leading to an article that i published in the kentucky law journal with which i believe justice rehnquist is familiar in which i outlined my own views about what the appropriate criteria are for the senate in advising and consenting to nominations for the supreme court. mr. chairman, i'd like to ask unanimous consent that that be included in the record at this point. host: sahil kapur, that hearing probably happened before you were born, and mitch mcconnell
is still working on judicial issues. mr. kapur: he certainly is. there is very little senator mcconnell cares more about than the federal judiciary. in president trump's first two years, he shepherded 84 judges including two supreme court justices through the senate to confirmation for lifetime appointed roles. this is part and parcel of his philosophy of playing the long game. there is no more effective way to play the long game than lifetime appointed judges, who are almost all of them, by the way i looked, in their 40's and 50's. these were helped with -- picked with vetting help from the federal society, a group of conservative lawyers and advocates who pick people who will fight for their causes and their causes won. most notably campaign finance that mcconnell has fought for and the work he's done on the judiciary is going to protect the issues he has fought the hardest for. mr. kane: and what he was mentioning there is his origination for this, his passion for this issue, was born as his first two years as a senate staffer working for republican cook of kentucky. he was hired out of a university of kentucky law school to work on the supreme court
confirmations, and there were three in a row in 1968, 1969, 1970 that were very contentious and withdrawn, and that became the fulcrum of mcconnell's thinking of how he cared so much about the judiciary. the way those nominations tilted, you end up with a slightly more moderate supreme court because of the way those unfolded. and mcconnell knows how much that impacted the arc of history from justice powell and then again in the mid-1980's you ended up with kennedy instead of bork. these are seemingly individual moments, but he views them as sort of the pivot points of
judicial history. mr. kapur: if i can add briefly the single most important one in the arc of mcconnell's career that he saw was 2003 and 2010. mcconnell vs. f.e.c. he levelled the charge in the courts that laid the ground work for citizens united. all it took was the replacement of one justice sandra day o'connor with a more conservative justice. pretty much the same case. one flip and he got his wish. host: we'll talk about campaign finance in just a few minutes. a little more on the judiciary first. march 16, 2016. senator mcconnell rolls the dice.
sen. mcconnell: it is the president's constitutional right to nominate a supreme court justice and the senate's constitutional right to act as a check on a president and withhold its consent. the american people may well elect a president who decides to nominate judge garland for senate consideration. the next president may also nominate somebody very different. either way, our view is this, give the people a voice in filling this vacancy. host: paul kane of "the washington post," what did we just see? mr. kane: that is really the defining moment of mcconnell's career in many ways, tying together everything from his work as a senate staffer to his views of the f.e.c. cases and the federal courts. this is mcconnell at a moment when it looked like there would be a democratic president. everybody throughout most of 2016 thought we were going to have a democratic president, that donald trump is just not going to win. and mcconnell takes the death of justice scalia, and that was in february of 2016, while on vacation with his wife over presidents' day weekend, hardly able to connect with members of his own caucus, issues a statement saying, no matter who the nominee is we will not even consider this person, and the
next president will get to make the choice. people were floored. he tried to find different, various precedents throughout history, and there really were none for a senate majority leader to make this decision, and he made it unilaterally. eventually his caucus came around and supported him, all but i think susan collins of maine. i think everybody else was ok with it. but it was a major roll of the dice doubling, tripling down on everything, and it was a bank shot that will continue to reverberate throughout history because it galvanized the evangelical voters later that summer and that fall and helped elect donald trump, helped save the senate republican majority, and led to the confirmation of 84? 84 federal judges the first two years, including two supreme court justices, one of whom, the brett kavanaugh nomination, incredibly, you know, controversial, but that moment began with mitch mcconnell on his own deciding no one is even going to get a hearing. mr. kane: i had asked senator mcconnell in december 2017 when i interviewed him what, if the tax law was about to pass that same day was the proudest achievement of his career. he said, no. neil gorsuch on the federal courts were. the tax law is a close second. many senate majority leaders have cut taxes. none have done what he did on a supreme court seat. basically held it open for 10
months, very clearly for the purpose of preserving an ideological balance on the supreme court. it would have swung rapidly. there would have been a five member democratic appointed majority on the court and put a lot of issues to the left. mcconnell rolled the dice. this is the contradiction within him. he is known as an institutionalist in many ways but is not afraid to do away with institutional norms and step on them quite clearly in a case like this. if it advances an ideological goal that he hopes dearly. -- holds dearly. host: you interviewed him in december of 2017. did he acknowledge his dice roll in a sense on the merrick garland nomination? mr. kane: he said that essentially the proudest achievement of his career was neil gorsuch in the federal courts, which we can parce that and know what he is talking about, the decision to allow that seat to remain open. you know, and when he talks
about the courts, he talks about it in a very matter of fact way. not an ideological way. we want judges who will simply look at the law and not be legislators from the bench. he doesn't get into these things publicly, but we know that the kinds of judges he worked to put on the bench are going to protect issues like campaign finance, gun rights, in many cases oppose abortion rights. this is a long game he is playing. mr. kane: he sees this as the part where, of the long game where he strategically has to map out everything and sees where is it going to end? he looks at congress right now and sees it as just a dysfunctional broken place in
which they're not going to get to a big, sweeping immigration border security bill. they're not going to get the -- these big campaign finance issues done. so where are they going to end up? where are they going to be and his senate republicans led a blockade of three d.c. circuit court of appeals vacancies, and essentially said we are not going to consider anybody for those three vacancies. it was an extraordinary thing that hadn't been done before. the idea a senate minority would prevent a sitting president and senate majority from appointing anybody to vacancies. the d.c. circuit has an enormous amount of authority over decisions by the president of the united states, executive action on things like climate change and regulations. mcconnell rolled that dice there. and that led to all of the history we're talking about. we didn't mention the fact mcconnell nuked the supreme court filibuster to confirm neil gorsuch, which he did. host: sahil kapur of bloomberg news mentioned the so-called nuclear option.
i want to show you a little video from 2013 and 2016. >> the rule change will make cloture for all nominations other than the supreme court. sen. mcconnell: if you want to play games, set yet another precedent that you'll no doubt come to regret, say to my friends on the other side of the aisle you'll forget this, and you may regret it a lot sooner than you think. therefore i raise the point of order. >> three and a half years later, republicans extend this change to include supreme court nominations. host: so sahil kapur, that was former majority leader harry reid and mitch mcconnell triggering the nuclear option. mr. kapur: right, and i think some democrats very much do
regret the move they made in 2013 given that, yes, it helped them fill some vacancies, but arguably made it easier for mcconnell to do what he did with the supreme court there. now it's not clear, there are many democrats convinced otherwise, that mcconnell would not have hesitated to make this move even if democrats didn't. this is one of the main things that helped then leader harry reid get the votes within his own conference to trigger the nuclear option in the first place. there was not a done deal. many older, long-time members like dianne feinstein and patrick leahy who were highly skeptical of that. but they were eventually sold on the democratic argument that mcconnell is not going to -- he'll do what he is going to do regardless of what we do now. we may as well get the vacancies filled. mr. kane: the 2013 vote, the final people to come onboard for harry reid weren't old line conservatives. it was leahy, feinstein, barbara boxer, in particular because at
that point they knew on the supreme court they had a pro roe v. wade majority. and they felt like they wanted to protect that, you know, abortion rights. most importantly. what changes mcconnell's mind is always when there is a deliverable, big outcome. he can sit there in 2013 and say this is the worst thing you could ever do to the united states senate. he said that history would remember harry reid as the worst majority leader ever because they were unilaterally changing the senate rules on a party line vote, and, you know, three and a half years later, is he willing to do the same thing? yes. if he gets a big end result out of it. that is a supreme court justice. now you see people clamoring for him to change the senate rules and do away with the legislative filibuster in order just to pass some really small potatoes things in his mind, and he is
not going to do that. if there is ever a moment where there is a really big outcome and eliminating the legislative filibuster gets him there, he'll consider it. host: sahil kapur, do you agree with paul kane that this decision will live on in history? mr. kapur: yes, i do. i fully agree with paul about mcconnell on the legislative filibuster. he recognizes that in the long haul it is going to be more useful to conservatives than it is to liberals. when democrats come to power if there was no filibuster they would be freer, more likely, have an easier time passing big pieces of legislation like medicare for all or pursuing some form of a green new deal. not saying that is likely. even 50 votes won't be easy for democrats, but with the legislative filibuster it is essentially impossible to do. he doesn't want to be the majority leader that paved the way for that. toward the last few weeks of the previous session, there was
clamor on the right as paul is suggesting to eliminate the legislative filibuster and pass $5.7 billion in president trump's wall. mcconnell is not going to do that. mr. kane: yeah. for a wall that could crumble in 10 or 20 years. no. he would only do it for something really big and important, like the supreme court justices and tilting the balance to the right for possibly a generation. mr. kapur: in a world where republicans came to full power and said we want to do big, transformative things, like pass the budget former speaker paul ryan had put out in the obama years. if there is something big like that, and the legislative filibuster was the one thing standing in the way, i could see a scenario where mcconnell seriously considers it. the legislative filibuster didn't stand in the way of much for the republicans. host: we talked a little bit about the judiciary, another issue senator mcconnell is known for is campaign finance. it's not just recently that he has talked about this. here he is on a c-span call-in
show in 1987 talking about this issue. senator mcconnell: it is rather interesting. the senate, some would argue, has been engaged in extensive debate, and i have been leading that extensive debate in opposition to public funded senate races and spending limits on senate races. >> on s2 i've been watching the senate proceedings, and i find it interesting nobody has mentioned or made any comment about lobbyists who many americans perceive as the real influence peddlers in the country, and i'd like to know the senator's thoughts on that. senator mcconnell: there certainly are a large core in this town. i might say in the defense of some of them, they do provide a pretty useful service if you know how to use a lobbyist. if you just simply allow them to make their argument. many times they are a very useful part of the process provided you use them as information sources and don't allow them to have special influence with you. the lobbyists per se are not
necessarily bad, and of course are required to register. host: paul kane, defending money in campaign and lobbyists is not usually a winning formula. mr. kane: no, it's not, but this is something that mcconnell learned early on is that everybody said they were for some form of campaign finance reform, but a lot of people secretly didn't want campaign finance reform or lobbying and ethics rules, and he stood up early and became the guy who would be the face holding up and fighting against what are seemingly really popular things. and it was a way to earn credit from his colleagues, who would publicly go after the cameras and say, yes, we should limit campaign donations and we should do away with lobbyists and then behind closed doors they would pat mcconnell on the back and say thank you for taking a bullet for us on this.
this is like you're doing great work. keep going. keep going. and it was a really big early play for him in which he learned how to get, win friends, win influence, gain influence, and he also really learned some of the tactics of how to gum up the senate through this fight. host: sahil kapur, did all the republicans pat him on the back for saying what he was saying? mr. kapur: certainly not. there was one republican by the name of john mccain who had fought to limit campaign finance. and mccain won this battle in congress despite the tooth and nail objections of mitch mcconnell. he teamed up with a democrat named russ feingold, passed what is known as the mccain/feingold bill. mcconnell could not win that battle in the arena of public
opinion. today something like 90% to 10% of americans believe there is too much money in politics. this is not a winning issue for you go to the voters with it. mcconnell went to court and found a first amendment objection. he lost the first time but eventually won. he had the last laugh on this issue. mr. kane: he played the long game. host: here he is in 2016 and then we'll show you a little bit from 2017, but here he is talking about his relationship and this issue with john mccain. >> mccain/feingold was the law that passed. you fought it in the supreme court. you lost. that was a pretty acrimonious battle. what's your relationship with john mccain today? sen. mcconnell: very close. that is a good example of being able to have a knock down drag out fight over issues. it went on for about 10 years. it was really pretty stressful between us at various points. but, you know, i called him up the day after he won in the supreme court. actually one of my worst days of my life was watching a republican house and republican senate and republican president pass a bill that i was opposed to, and deeply opposed to.
i was the plaintiff and lost in the supreme court. called him up the day after and said congratulations, john. you won. i lost. we found that there were a lot of other things we could work on together, and we'd become fast friends and allies on a whole variety of different things, and that is the way the senate ought to work. >> mr. peters. >> no. >> mr. portman. mr. reid. host: sahil kapur, that second piece of video was from july 28, 2017. did you recognize it? mr. kapur: i did. i was up late in the senate that evening covering that vote. it was an extraordinary moment. my colleague and i had some rumblings that mccain was unsure
about his vote. throughout the evening he would keep a little bit tight lipped and didn't specifically reveal how he would vote but he gave signals that he was highly skeptical and he was not happy with this going forward. you saw that. you saw the clip. we saw the thumbs down and heard the gas. we saw mitch mcconnell standing there arms crossed. stone faced. this was a huge defeat from mcconnell and just a few days later he was asked about john mccain who was diagnosed with cancer and didn't know how long he lived. mcconnell said he was one of the finest men he ever served with. mr. kane: an incredibly complex journey. mcconnell gets to the senate in january, 1985. mccain comes along two years later, and their friendship is -- goes back and forth. there are rivalries. mccain was pushing campaign finance in the late 1990's and into 2002 campaign finance reform when it passed. they had fights that ended up with each other accusing one another of breaking the law. mccain has essentially accused
mcconnell of saying we can't push campaign finance reform because of big tobacco donations. they fought bitterly. they got better after mccain's presidential campaign especially. he came back to the senate and he fully engaged in work, but then that thumbs down moment mcconnell, i watched that video over and over. i was there that night also, but from above you can't quite see exactly what is going on. host: you could hear the gasp though. mr. kane: we could. mcconnell stood there without moving for 12 seconds, arms folded. he hardly even blinked. yet they still had some sort of friendship. it's like two people from different sides of a war that
years later, you know, can sort of bond over a common fight. mcconnell did go and visit mccain in the sedona ranch a couple months before he passed away in a sort of quiet -- barely talked about it afterwards, but he went and spent a couple hours with the senator and his wife as he only had a couple months left to live. mr. kapur: that was the obamacare repeal vote. so obvious to us who follow it closely, but that was one of the top priorities of that congress. and president trump. host: what does it tell you about senator mcconnell that he went out to see john mccain playing the long game again? mr. kapur: one of the things congressional leaders like to use, and speaker pelosi is don't fight every battle as if it is your last one. mcconnell knows this. he lives by this rule because there will be some members who oppose him on some things. he will need them for other things. mccain is a perfect example. he voted no on aca repeal,
supplied an important yes vote on the tax law a few months later. that was an important achievement for mcconnell. if he had alienated him, if he had gone guns blazing against this man and ruined that relationship, it would have been harder on other things including those judges. host: you brought up nancy pelosi. she and senator mcconnell have been around this town for a long time. what is their relationship? mr. kapur: it's a fascinating duality between these two because they've both been leaders of their respective caucuses for more than a decade. they are both masters of legislative maneuvering, both very strategic individuals. i'm not sure there is much after relationship beyond -- they both like making deals and funding the government and bringing home their priorities, but the relationship appears to be strictly business.
i don't sense any warmth there. they also know the respective other can deliver once there is a deal. mr. kane: their early, formative years are they have some issues that are of similarity. speaker pelosi's early years on the appropriations committee she also did a lot of fighting on sort of international freedom issues. particularly related to china, and so they have sort of similar areas that they -- areas of concern, but they're just really different people. pelosi is truly a baltimore-san francisco liberal italian, one of six kids from baltimore who goes on to have five kids, a mother of five out in san francisco. mcconnell is just this quiet, unexpressive, always calculating person. you rarely get to see what is turning. you just know the wheels are turning. with pelosi, she's talking.
she is thinking about it out loud. they're different people. their relationship and how it goes the next two years will go toward a lot of issues, potentially some serious constitutional clashes. host: they are two of the big four legislative leaders, along with kevin mccarthy and chuck schumer, who we have also profiled. mitch mcconnell's rise to power -- he chaired the ethics committee, was majority leader, minority leader, longest serving republican congressional leader now in history. he began as the national republican senatorial campaign committee chair. here he is in 1998 at a fundraising dinner. senator mcconnell: just to give you a sense of the scale of this event, tonight we will be serving approximately 2,000
pounds of top quality grain fed beef. which is the equivalent of all the big macs president clinton eats in a month. i want to promise you something. with your generous support, we'll be serving up a whole lot more red meat to the democrats before this election is over. let me give you a few choice appetizers. should we limit the fees lawyers can charge in tobacco cases at least to the obscene rate of $1,000 per hour? america says yes. the democrats say no. should we spend 95% of the federal education budget directly in local classrooms rather than wasting it on washington bureaucrats? america says yes. the democrats say no. should we end president clinton's era of drug permissiveness by launching an unprecedented new war against drug abuse by young people? america says yes. the democrats say no. host: sahil kapur, what did you see?
mr. kapur: well 1998, it was a few months before that election, a bad election cycle for the republicans. a rare mid-term election where the party outside the white house didn't win a lot of seats. that was in part a backlash to the republican efforts to impeach bill clinton. the public had perceived some overreach there. just a few weeks ago, a few months ago now after the 2018 election, he gave his assessment and said democrats should not engage in presidential harassment. this became a big issue, and mcconnell was asked to respond. are you saying the democrats should not investigate the president? he said no. i was just saying i was there in 1998. i remember what overreach looks like, and they shouldn't do that. mr. kane: yeah. that was a mid-term cycle where republicans actually thought they could get to 60 votes. they thought they had 55 heading into the election and held even at 55, which felt like a big
letdown. they thought they should have picked up more. he even faced a challenge internally to be chairman for the next cycle after that. from chuck hagel of nebraska. mcconnell won easily, but it was a down year for him. but he uses these positions to continue to do the things that other people didn't want to do. he was the guy -- back then they had soft money. these unlimited checks that today they go to sort of dark shadowy, nonprofit groups that have weird names. they used to go directly to the party campaign committees, and mcconnell was the guy who traveled the country and asked for $50,000, $100,000, $500,000 checks. that's a lot of work. most of their colleagues up there don't want to do those things, but he did it again and again. for four years he did that job. and that begins to lay the groundwork for him to be able to say, will you vote for me to
become leader? mr. kane: because of all these things, he is so untouchable with his republican conference. the one group of people he has no problems with are his senate republican members. they trust him to be leader. host: well, during the clinton impeachment in 1999 he compared what was going on to an earlier case. >> the appropriate -- this morning to remind everybody who has not been around here for three years about the packwood case and the similarities between that case and the one we currently have before us in the senate. my worst assignment since i have been here was to be chairman of the ethics committee, and i had the misfortune of having that job during the packwood matter. you may recall that that was a case about sexual misconduct and obstruction of justice. it was a lengthy case.
we reached the point in the case where under the rules of the ethics committee, someone could ask for a public hearing. that is to repeat it all in public. that precipitated an amendment by my colleague senator boxer on the floor to direct the committee to have public hearings, so i have been there. i understand the argument that our friends on the other side of the aisle have been making during this proceeding about reaching a decision on the record. it's noteworthy, however, the arguments they were making three years ago when the accused was a republican. in fact, a senior member of our party, the chairman of the finance committee. my colleagues were making exactly the opposite argument. host: paul kane of the washington post, he has been
pretty consistent hasn't he over the years? mr. kane: yeah. that was so -- the impeachment trial that was being held in the senate, they would have sort of legislative business in the morning and adjourn and then reconvene and do the trial. that was a large part of that especially the deliberations were held completely behind closed doors. and different members were asking to have some of it done publicly. eventually i think somebody -- some people would release their own statements was the compromise they reached, but the ethics case that he was chair of and cochair of, bob packwood, was one of the really defining moments of sort of the me too era from the 1990's. and he led, along with dick bryan then senator of nevada, a really long, brutal fight over misbehavior of one of their own. at the very end, he was willing to vote to expel packwood, and that's why packwood resigned. host: anything to add? mr. kapur: not particularly.
host: after that he was senate minority leader. harry reid was the majority leader. and it always seems that there is a very contentious relationship between the two senate leaders. here is mitch mcconnell talking about his relationship with harry reid, and then you'll see some video of senators reid and mcconnell together. >> the senate is a place of relationships. what about this relationship between the democratic and republican leader? are you friends? are you not friends? senator mcconnell: look, i've been very public about a couple things about harry. number one, i didn't like the way he shut the senate down. and prevented people from voting. i didn't like the way he ran the senate, and i think his public rhetoric is frequently very inappropriate.
>> the senate came together tonight in a bipartisan fashion to address one of the most critical economic challenges this country has ever faced, and we've sent a clear message to america, to all americans, that we will not let this economy fail. senator mcconnell: thank you, harry. this has been the senate at its finest. in the years that i've been here, i can't recall a single time where in this close proximity to an election both sides have risen above the temptation to engage in partisan game playing, if you will, to address an issue of magnitude, great magnitude.
host: sahil kapur, that second piece of tape was from october 1, 2008. mr. kapur: right. the relationship between mcconnell and reid has always struck me as a mixture of mutual respect, occasional contempt, a need to work together and a recognition they need to do things together in the senate to get the 60 votes to defeat a filibuster on pieces of legislation. now, it is very common for a minority leader hoping to become majority leader to critique the other's handling of the senate. the criticism is often that we know i want a more open senate. i want more amendments. i want more freedom for voting. that's how mcconnell criticized reid and how operated in the beginning. he moved away from that. his leadership style looks a lot more like harry reid's than the one he envisioned for himself. he has prevented the other side from getting a lot of votes that they wanted. over time, there seems to be an
equilibrium where senate majority leaders get to, which is i'm not going to let the other side have all the power they would like to. mr. kane: i think you can find a story by me in 2007 about how majority leader, minority leader they're both similar institutionalists. a lot of the things we said about mcconnell and how he did the ethics committee, he was doing, a whip, doing all the dirty jobs nobody else wanted to do, harry reid was the same way. they got to their positions the exact same way. what you were saying earlier about how mitch mcconnell looked in the mirror and only saw somebody who could be majority leader, never aspired to be president. that was harry reid. he never wanted to be president either. at first, it worked. they understood each other. they weren't angling to run for president some day. they weren't trying to one up each other politically, but the relationship deteriorated year over year, in part because they each faced tough re-elections in 2010 harry reid in nevada and 2014 mcconnell in kentucky and that poisoned the well a bit.
but ultimately you're right. everybody begins their term as senate majority leader wanting to be mike mansfield, the longest serving senate majority leader ever, who was very open. the process was incredible. the committee chairman had power. the civil rights act of 1964 was debated for weeks and weeks and weeks, and finally they were able to break the filibuster because they'd run it so open. eventually, they all become lyndon johnson. they all begin to shut down the place, and there are fewer amendments now being voted on in the senate under mitch mcconnell than under harry reid, and harry reid was the all-time, previous all-time low. host: that vote where we saw senators reid and mcconnell together was the part vote right after the financial meltdown in 2008. october 1, 2008 was the date of that video. 74-25 that passed. the senate came together. mr. kane: it did.
you saw on that -- there was a countdown clock on that clip, and that was -- there was a debate that night that was happening. it was i think a presidential debate. if not, it was a v.p. debate. you were right in the throws of -- the throes of a massive election for president, and a lot of senate seats were up. people, mcconnell being one of them, he was up for election that year, too, were casting votes that were not popular back home. and it was a big moment where they came together, and then the beginning of sort of the fraying of the reid-mcconnell relationship was probably a few weeks after when his democratic opponent in kentucky was airing ads being critical of mcconnell for supporting the bail out, the tarp bail out. mcconnell felt like chuck schumer and reid, schumer was running the campaign committee at the time, they were not just being honest brokers, but they had sat there in those rooms and agreed to do something to save the global financial markets, and now here mcconnell was being criticized for it. that vote and the fallout from it has really been a big
impactful thing on the congress and also the senate leader relationship. host: sahil kapur, you mentioned earlier he has had tough re-election campaigns. mr. kapur: he has often. i think 2014, talking about mcconnell here, expected to be frankly a lot closer than it was. it ended up being a blow out year for republicans. mr. kane: but he had to work his butt off in the primary and the general. mr. kapur: he did. and one of his top advisers josh holmes at the time who was overseeing the nrsc in some ways actually went to kentucky to be stationed there over the last few months. it seemed like a signal to reporters that mcconnell may be in trouble, but it turns out he won pretty comfortabley. host: i think i saw a news report the democrats have already tried to recruit amy mcgraph, a female fighter pilot
to run against him in the next round. mr. kane: yes. mr. kane: they are looking. his numbers back home to your activists nservative just can't really trust him. love him.ever they kind of respect him because ometimes he does things like bulldoze kavanaugh for the then they say they can't trust this guy. weak.ays looks measu was a dynamic candidate n a tough district and had incredible ads that were about her pilot history, what it takes be a pilot and mother and raising children. the he calm up short and question is, is that the right person to right hand against mcconnell. young and a woman.
she raised tons of money. are things that chuck schumer will look at while thinking that is a good contrast. mcconnell is taking nothing to raising tons of money nd has a campaign team getting into form. mr. kapur: kentucky is one of states for the democrats which is one reason he longevity.at he always has some ace in the hole. host: january 3, 2015, mitch achieves his goal to u.s. ority hraoeleader of the senate. here he is talking about how he university that role. video clip] >> senators are here all time. the schedule to decide what we are going to deba debate. guarantee the
outcome because the senate is a really unusual body and requires votes to do most things and only rarely does one party have 60. to talk to each other. you can't do much in the senate partisan basis. so this is a beehive of activity during the week. a very challenging job. you certainly can't make everybody happy. found some process you yourself the leader of your party in the senate. of class bunch president types who all have elbows, and and big on any given day they think they you.do your job better than it is all carrot and no stick and usually if you try to punish somebody the next time you pay a price. host: class president, sharp repair rots, no --
care rots. mr. kane: he was his high school at dupont mostly sunny high school. when he to louisville is 14. so he is not well known throughout the school. he's gone to school with them since he was six but he is a junior running and he knowssident he is not particularly popular but he knows who is popular. has a campaign for class president in which he goes up to of the football team, head of cheerleaders, captain of baseball team will me for class president and he builds out of a ially what we think whip list of supporters and builds a little card and puts it in every locker vote for mitch mcconnell for president and school had an unusual arrangement where they had eventh and eighth graders that
were there so he knew it was all strategy and tactics. the ew that if they saw captain of the football team endorsed him i'm going to vote guy that is the captain of the football team. class s the ultimate president type in that regard. you ven in that campaign began it see the seeds of what about d do as leader strategy and tactics. mr. kapur: part of that strategy and tactics in the 2014 election that made him majority leader out primary challenges from the right by candidates who were poisonous in election.al he had been through that with todd aiken who made strange controversial comments about relationship and richard murdock. similar issue. lost winnable seats and he said enough is enough and took own hands and s opposed people like chris cdaniel in mississippi who he
thought of someone as flawed and could lose a general election was he republicans so that successful for him. one thing about mcconnell his convictions about how the senate should be run are caught by the political moment. give you two examples. january 25 he says he will not to become a ate theater for show votes and will that ring up legislation can pass and be signed into law. february 12 he is going to bring on the green new deal the democratic resolution. it what pass. it is a political move to put the democrats in a difficult position. host: one of the skwrpbunderlyi is selves of the last hour the importance of relationships particularly in the u.s. senate. mitch mcconnell has a relatively special relationship. video. more [video clip] >> obviously it is a great
be here today. ctually, chairman, it is probably not the first time the majority leader has been before this committee. bob eminded of something dole said at the confirmation hearing for another nominee.ation his wife elizabeth. remember bob for having the best sense of humor ever of anyone who served here. is how he began. he said i feel a little like nathan nath nathan hale. one wife tot i have give for my country's infrastructure. that was bob dole for you. us is inee before extraordinarily well qualified, ncredibly capable and has really great judgment. on a whole variety of things. know senator paul will have
much more to say about her speaks ations when he next. was ratherkane, that humanizing to see mitch mcconnell in that role as husband? it was.: but in humor he had to go it bob dole. host: best joke we have had so far. a. kane: dole could have been late night comedy sketch artist. this is her nship, second turn as a cabinet secretary. elaine chou. she was a labor secretary not here for almost eight bush ears in the administration. it came as a surprise to some but shouldn't have within a few of trump's victory she was nominated to run the transportation department. there a political calculation by the president in her to be o nominate
transportation secretary? mr. kapur: i'm not sure. t certainly couldn't hurt to nominate the wife of a senate majority leader whose support need and mcconnell was asked if he would recuse himself stake. he has a personal his answer was emphatic, no. he didn't blink. up to trump tower once or twice during the transition of i think he made lots different recommendations about who to appoint to which jobs. and, yes, i think there is some oment where some advisor to a president might say and, gosh, a, she is qualified and smart been through the confirmation process before, d you know, let's do something that the majority eader will thank us for down
the road. it is good to have friends of allies. to the ain, back relationships that are important in washington, d.c., how would you describe the relationship etween president trump and majority leader mcconnell? that is like a yo-yo. there were many times early on kind of flawed specially after john mccain flashed thumbs down and the healthcare repeal effort fell apart. but what mcconnell does frequently that president trump mcconnell keeps all of his -- a lot of his -- internal. he may tell the president to his that is aer the phone dumb idea but he comes to the phones, passes reporters add.ust has nothing to
so, that has kept the relationship intact. there are moments when he does speak out like on the foreign syria, those out are moments that we should never undervalue. because if mcconnell is publicly critical of trump it is a rare moment and a moment it is clear he wants us to know that he with , really has broken trump on an issue. r. kapur: he is exceptionally disciplined in not commenting on things the president does and ometimes it has been august washed because you can tell things -- awkward because continuation happened and made uncomfortable. a lot of it goes to the summer f the president's first year and he was home speaking freely,and around people he was asked why congress wasn't doing more and he said something we have a who is new to this and you can imagine how it was taken and ll over cable news
president trump lashed out at mcconnell on social media and created a real problem for mitch mcconnell. he had to have a bunch of allies say we don't support him for leader, he should not step down. his lesson.earned there were moments in the first two years of president trump help but an couldn't criticize him and i'm not happy with this, i condemn this. mcconnell would refuse to do that. r. kane: in that moment secretary chow at an infrastructure event in new york asked e president was about the criticism and what was her line was something like i both my men. so, the awkward moments do happen. mr. kapur: i subscribe less to the relationship theory of than to the structural theory. cross party relationships were possible in partiesar years the two
ere incoherent and cross party coalitions that could be formed. now they are sorted and their home are to not work with the other part and it is not because the people are less congress capable of cultivating elationships but the political incentives have moved away from that. host: it was october of 2010 and sahil kapur referred to that mitch mcconnell made a comment president obama being a one-term president. that is going to stick with him, it, throughout his legislative career? mr. kane: it is. like you said, mcconnell didn't understand why it was such a big deal. talking to him before said being inas and he it is number one priority. one uld be harry's number if it were president john mccain reid.mocratic leader
host: i want to show a little video of him talking about this in his memoir. [video clip] one-term obama president i admire bob woodward who is the only major reporter reported the rest of what i said right after that. >> which was. we had present of work to do and we had to look for ways we could work together. that was conveniently snipped off by almost everyone. my big disappointment with barack obama are two things that save america e to from the path we are headed. eligibility changes. in other words, you have to hange eligibility for very popular things like medicare and social security to fit the tkpl -- demographics of america tomorrow. 1960's.1930's or social security in the 1930's 1960's.care of the
he is smart and doesn't want to do it. comprehensive tax reform. to do it again. it is not for the purpose of getting more revenue of the making mark more competitive but the -- america doe competitive but he won't comprehensive tax reform other than to get additional revenue government. so these two big issues we have address because the nation's c.e.o. simply it.n't want to do host: paul kane, sorry to nterrupt you that was may of 2016. mr. kane: mcconnell likes to say government is a good time to do big things. in 2010, 2014, he said it right after the mid-term elections which put nancy pelosi office. eaker's it is a thing he likes to say and he points out to some of the
big deals of history the early 1980's social security deal when t was president reagan and house democrats, tip o'neill the speaker. comprehensive tax reform bill which was a republican anate, a democratic house and republican president. but he's had his chances. he's had a lot of chances at divided government to do on entitlements. and the moment john boehner when e was speaker who wanted to also do something big on it, cconnell was not very supportive of it. do a giving nt to tko that he had to do. there were things that you have a little bit to get what you want, and mcconnell has been hesitant on those big deals that he seems to talk he wants them. mr. kapur: mcconnell has nderstood i think especially
since the 2005 efforts to partially privatize social dealing with entitlements is politically you need and bipartisan cover. that is the key he says about divided government. to make sure both parties share the blame because 80-20 they like social security and this are going to be attacks. contradiction is during the obama years he was emphatic about the need to bring down the debt and talked about it in serious terminals as a threat -- threat to the country. he is more silent on it now because he sees this president eager to cut social security and medicare even in the e campaigned opposite of that. mcconnell is left on an island say. do i do i still talk about the debt even d to bring it down though my president won't do anything. he stopped. watchers know mitch
mitch and chuck schumer spend a the f time on the floor of senate and talking with each other and leading their delegations. senator schumer was a guest at the mcconnell center at the niversity of louisville in february of 2018. [video clip] this nk you, mitch, for kind and generous introduction. we really do get along, despite in the press. we try our best to understand ask things to never that are impossible of the ther, and to be honest and respectleful -- respectful to to in good faith and try meet the middle wherever possible. that is how we get things done senate. sometimes it doesn't happen. no secret i didn't agree with healthcare and tax legislation were considered in it doeste but sometimes happen. we know what president coolingon called it the
sauceer for the hot tea of politics that can lead the times.through difficult if there was ever a time when our politics needed a cooling now.r it is that is what our history teaches us. friends il kapur, the is the cooling saucer. mr. kapur: that is interesting talk about the middle and need to find common ground and compromise. in many cases how schumer views the senate. ow he is the democratic leader in the me too era and facing his own pressure from left flank who protested audits his home for not being tough president trump. but he is facing some of the faced from onnell his ideological line in the boil years. mr. kane: he became minority leader when they were expecting
and majority leader mcconnell is the republican whip to the mid ing terminals and they had a -- erminals they had a -- terms they had a large cushion and six't think they would lose seats and they lost six seats he he is minority leader and had to find his footing. chuck schumer in 2016 was hillary clinton was going to win and certain they ere picking up enough seats in places like pennsylvania to become majority leader. the day after the election thinking i got minority this job work? what is my relationship with mcconnell like? a very different process. sorting er is still through that role and that .elationship with mcconnell it is better than it was with it is still not
- it is nothing like the old relationships of sort of bob bird, bob dole. paul kane you mentioned you were at the mcconnell center .hat day that we saw mr. kane: despite louisville and a liberal town mcconnell living in whether is the most liberal precinct of he loves the town and went to the university of louisville there and built a mcconnell center at the university of louisville. to bring in a t big guest lecturer at least once he loves to demonstrate -- mcconnell -- hat i have these relationships and so he brought chuck schumer down. he brought ted kennedy down. hillary clinton has spoken there. spoken there.as it is his way of trying to
to the world i can have good relationships with these people even in on the it looks like we are stabbing one another. story mcconnell told us in our bloomberg office when he came for an interview the 2018 election right before the 2016 presidential called him to r say leader mcconnell i hope we can have a great relationship mcconnell called him the day after the relationship and said sure hope we will. mcconnell never took for granted going to win because of that. host: what is his reputation as the g.o.p.? mr. kapur: among his members it is strong. who will let people air their grievances and member y listen to concerns. he has had con 10 shus moments moments but he
doesn't let that get in the way of the long game. he has ever gotten to someone opposing him was senator ted hen cruz famously acrimonious relationship at times with mitch was making noises about i'm not committing to but he won cconnell unanimously so he doesn't have problems within his conference say speaker pelosi does. host: his ongoing legacy. legacy : his ongoing will always be defined by first foremost the decision it -- scalia seat and hold that and set in motion this get rical arc in which you the president trump presidency supreme court g for a generation to come and power, tactical
play while the outside conservative activist world will him, history ate will judge him in a way as the influential conservative of 21st century.arly host: paul kane with the "washington post" and sahil news. with bloomberg gentlemen, thank you for helping understand nture to mitch mcconnell a little better. we want to close with one last our video deo from archives. this is mitch mcconnell talking about the senate in general. [video clip] >> i think that the senate has een the indispensable legislative body because that is the place where things are out, the place where only arely does the majority get things exactly their own way, can lace where stability
occ most people obviously think that. and in an era in which everybody wa gratification, if you are looking for instant perfection, or senate would not be a good place for you. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] >> the air force secretary talks the future of the air force. president trump's proposed space upcoming president's summit meeting with north korean leader kim jung un. at 6:00 p.m. day eastern on c-span. >> the c-span bus recently traveled to texas asking what does it mean to be american. means to be american is the opportunity you get.
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thing we have to fear is fear itself. not what your country can do for you. ask what you can do for your country. these people who knocked .illings down >> c-span's newest book the noted historians ranked america's best and worst executives providing insites into the 44 american resident stories gathered by interviews with notable presidential historians. xplore the events that shaped our leader, challenges they faced and legacy they left affairs, by public c-span's the presidents will be 23 but you can preorder as a hard cover or e-back today at