ABC News' Sunlen Miller (@SunlenMiller) reports:
Back in his home state, Senate Minority Leader, R-Ky., found himself defending the debt deal passed in Congress last week as “much as we could get out of this without raising taxes” to conservatives, including one who stood up and stated, “I don’t feel like the Tea Party or anybody won anything.”
The audience member at the Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs of Owensboro – where McConnell, along with Tea Party favorite Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., held a joint town hall today – wondered why the debt deal could be considered a win for anyone with still such large debt and deficits carried by the nation.
“I think we need some politicians in Washington to really stand up for the people, and I think if they don’t do it they’re not going to have a job much longer,” the audience member concluded
“Well that’s obviously what the people of Kentucky can decide when I get my report card,” McConnell, who is up for reelection in 2014 and been in Congress since 1984 responded.
“We were given a choice between doing nothing and doing something,” McConnell explained of the debt deal compromise before the Aug. 2 deadline. “The president asked us to raise the debt ceiling in April and cut nothing. Absolutely nothing. We said we’re not going to do that. And we got as much as we could out of this without raising taxes.”
McConnell said the debt deal passed last week in Congress was a “modest course correction,” but Congress still has an opportunity to do more before Christmas this year, when the super committee’s recommendations will be voted on.
McConnell said that he is “very close” to choosing the three members of the Joint Committee, the super committee as it’s been called, born out of the debt deal struck by the leaders with President Obama. Speaker Boehner, House Minority Leader Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Reid also have three appointments.
“I’m treating it like a job interview,” McConnell said of his yet-to-be-named pick of three people to sit on the super committee which he called a “mechanism” for an outcome of the broader spending and debt problems in the country.
“I asked our colleagues, our Republican colleagues who would like to be on it. And I basically sat down in person with the people who wanted to be on it, talked to them about it, and have done follow up calls to several of them that I’m leaning toward appointing.”
McConnell said that his criteria for his Republican picks is someone not only “well grounded philosophically,” but also who are “willing to accept something less than the absolute perfect solution,” as the Republican Party only controls 1/3 of the government, the House of Representatives.
“I’m putting people on there that I think have high character, great integrity, and can deal with the fact that they are going to be pushed and pulled and lobbied by everyone in this town, including our own colleagues in the Senate.”
McConnell said that “adjusting the trajectory” of entitlement programs is one of the things that he hopes will come out of the committee, “this year.”
“I am hoping that the people that Harry and Nancy put on the joint committee will – face the facts and help us reach a conclusion that makes sure that these two popular and necessary programs are still there for the next generations to come.”
Briefly mentioning Friday’s downgrading by the S & P of the nation’s credit rating to AA+, McConnell said that perhaps it will serve as a “good wakeup call,” to Congress.
“There’s plenty of room to criticize Standard and Poor’s but to the extent that that was related to the size of our debt, and our deficit, maybe it’s a good wake up call,” McConnell said noting the nation’s $14 trillion debt.
Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., said that the broader economic recovery will happen, just under Republican leadership.
“It’s going to take another election I think to get there, because we have a crew in Washington that is not proud of America.”