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Addison Mitchell "Mitch" McConnell, Jr. (born February 20, 1942) is the senior United States Senator from Kentuckymarker. He was chosen by his Republican colleagues as the Minority Leader in November 2006, making him the top-ranking Republican in the 110th Congress, which convened January 3, 2007. He is an advocate of conservative principles, receiving a perfect score from the American Conservative Union in 2006. McConnell won re-election in 2008 against Democratic challenger Bruce Lunsford.

Early life and education

McConnell was born in Tuscumbia, Alabamamarker to Julia (née Shockley) and Addison Mitchell McConnell. His official U.S. Senate Web site biography omits his Alabamamarker birthplace, stating that he was "Born on February 20, 1942, and raised in south Louisville". McConnell was challenged early in life when he was stricken with polio at age two:
"When I was two years old, I came down with an infection that felt a lot like the flu.
But after the fever passed, my left leg had gone lame.
For two years my mother put me through a physical therapy regimen taught to her by the doctors at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation, founded by President Roosevelt in Warm Springs, Georgiamarker.
From age two to four, I was not allowed to walk or run.
But after two years of my mother's care, I was able to have a normal life.
A lot of kids at that time, in the 1940s, weren't so lucky.
Some were paralyzed for life.
Some were sentenced to the iron lung.
Many died."
Eradication of polio as a scourge was one of the premier successes of the American government; it began under Roosevelt and continued for decades under the Center for Disease Control. McConnell was raised in southern Louisville, Kentuckymarker, where he attended the duPont Manual High Schoolmarker, and in 1964 he graduated with honors from the University of Louisvillemarker College of Arts and Sciences. He was student body president and a member of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity. He graduated in 1967 from the University of Kentuckymarker College of Law, where he was elected the president of the Student Bar Association.

McConnell became a member of the 100th Training Unit, U.S. Army Reserve, in Louisville, Kentuckymarker during his final semester of law school, and he reported for his six months of active service, primarily for training, in July 1967. After induction at Fort Knoxmarker, Kentucky, McConnell was released early from his active-duty military service in August 1967.

In 1992, McConnell teamed up with the University of Louisvillemarker to create the McConnell Center.

Career prior to the Senate

In March 1967, during his final semester of law school, McConnell gained experience on Capitol Hillmarker as an intern under Senator John Sherman Cooper, later as an assistant to Senator Marlow Cook, and was a Deputy Assistant Attorney General under President Gerald R. Ford. From 1978 until his election to the Senate, he was the Jefferson County Judge/Executive, the top political office in Jefferson Countymarker, which includes Louisville.

U.S. Senate

Initial election and subsequent re-elections

In 1984, McConnell ran against two-term Democratic Senator Dee Huddleston. The election race wasn't decided until the last returns came in, and McConnell won by a thin margin — less than one-half of a percentage point. McConnell was the only Republican Senate challenger to win that year, despite Ronald Reagan's landslide victory in the presidential election. Part of McConnell's success came from a series of television campaign spots called "Where's Dee", which featured a group of bloodhounds trying to find Huddleston, implying that Huddleston's attendance record in the Senate was less than stellar. It is likely that he was helped by Ronald Reagan's 21-point win in Kentucky that year. His campaign bumper stickers and television ads asked voters to "Switch to Mitch".

In 1990, McConnell faced a tough reelection contest against former Louisville mayor Harvey I. Sloane, winning by 4.5 points. He soundly defeated Steve Beshear in 1996, even as Bill Clinton narrowly carried the state. In keeping with a tradition of humorous and effective television ads in his campaigns, McConnell's campaign ran television ads in 1996 that warned voters to not "Get Besheared" and included images of sheep being sheared. In 2002, he was reelected with the largest majority by a Republican candidate in Kentucky history.

In 2008, McConnell defeated Democratic opponent Bruce Lunsford by 5.8%, 100,000 votes.

Republican leadership

McConnell was chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the 1998 and 2000 election cycles; Republicans maintained control of the Senate in both. McConnell was first elected as Majority Whip in the 108th Congress and unanimously re-elected by Republicans in the Senate on November 17, 2004. Sen. Bill Frist, the Majority Leader, did not seek re-election in the 2006 elections. After Republicans lost control of the Senate in November 2006, they elected McConnell to replace Frist as Republican Leader.

Committees



Political actions and positions

McConnell is a staunch conservative and a shrewd parliamentary tactician. He is widely considered a "kingmaker" in Kentucky Republican politics.

Although he is an ardent conservative, he has distanced himself from the majority in his party by opposing the Flag Desecration Amendment, arguing against modifying the United States Constitution to address "every political and social ill" the nation faces. He has, however, sponsored legislation that would criminalize flag burning but without a constitutional amendment.

McConnell is also well known for his opposition to campaign finance regulation on First Amendment grounds. He argues that regulations reduce participation in political campaigns and protect incumbents from competition. He spearheaded the movement against the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (known since 1995 as the "McCain–Feingold bill" and from 1989–1994 as the "Boren–Mitchell bill"), calling it "neither fair, nor balanced, nor constitutional." His opposition to the bill culminated in the 2003 Supreme Court case McConnell v. Federal Election Commission.

In August 2007 McConnell introduced the Protect America Act of 2007, which allowed the National Security Agencymarker to monitor telephone and electronic communications of individuals inside and outside the United States without obtaining a warrant.

McConnell remains one of the strongest supporters of the Iraq War, which he considers a central part of the War on Terrorism. He holds the view that the violence in Iraq is perpetrated primarily by al-Qaeda and other international jihadists who would otherwise be engaged in terrorist actions within the United States. In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper on January 10, 2007 (after President Bush's announcement of an escalation in troop levels in Iraq), McConnell claimed that the war in Iraq was a success because it had prevented terrorist attacks in the U.S. since the September 11 attacks. He warned that if the United States withdrew from Iraq, "the terrorists would come after us where we live."

In 1996, Senator McConnell demanded that President Clinton allow White House aides to testify under oath. On April 1, 2007, Chris Wallace claimed that McConnell's stance on Karl Rove and Harriet Miers testifying under oath in relation to the Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy was contradictory. Wallace asked, "In 1996, you were saying those White House aides should testify in open hearing. These were White House aides of Bill Clinton, in open hearing under oath. Why shouldn't the same rules apply for the Bush White House and people like Karl Rove?" McConnell replied, "And what I’m telling you is the president's going to make that decision."

Senator McConnell was the writer of the Gas Price Reduction Act. The GPRA calls for more offshore and domestic oil exploration, to try to curb rising gas prices.

On April 21, 2009, McConnell delivered a speech to the Senate criticizing United States President Barack Obama's plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention campmarker in Cubamarker.


During the speech, he suggested that Obama's closure plans might result in the release of "murderers" into the U.S.He also claimed that the Department of Defense had identified 18 former Guantanamo prisoners who allegedly returned to battle, whom he called "recidivists", and he predicted that the closure of the camp would result in additional former captives returning to the battlefield.

War in Iraq

McConnell has been an advocate of the War in Iraq and was a supporter of President George W. Bush and his policies.

However, regarding the failure of the Iraqi government to make reforms, McConnell said the following on Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer: "The Iraqi government is a huge disappointment. Republicans overwhelmingly feel disappointed about the Iraqi government. I read just this week that a significant number of the Iraqi parliament want to vote to ask us to leave. I want to assure you, Wolf, if they vote to ask us to leave, we'll be glad to comply with their request."

On the June 17, 2007, edition of CBS News' Face the Nation, McConnell said, "Most members of my conference in the Senate believe [that September will be] the critical point to evaluate where we are ... I think everybody anticipates that there's going to be a new strategy in the fall. I find growing support in the Senate among Republicans, and for that matter, some Democrats as well, for the recommendations of the [Baker-Hamilton] Iraq Study Group".

On July 9, 2007, in Hopkinsville, Kentuckymarker at Fort Campbellmarker, speaking to a contingent of troops about to ship out for a 15-month deployment to Iraq, McConnell said, "The majority of the public has decided the Iraq effort is not worth it," he said. "That puts a lot of pressure on Congress to act because public opinion in a democracy is not irrelevant."

2008 re-election campaign

On November 2, 2008 the website of The New Republic reported that flyers questioning McConnell's sexuality and the reasons for his 1967 military discharge were being distributed in Kentucky.

In October 2008, McConnell and Democratic nominee Bruce Lunsford were tied in the polls. In November, McConnell won re-election against Lunsford.

Allegations of corruption

In its 2009 report, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) named McConnell one of the 15 most corrupt members of Congress, stating that "Sen. McConnell's ethics issues stem primarily from (1) earmarks he inserted into legislation for clients of his former chief of staff in exchange for campaign contributions and (2) the misuse of his nonprofit McConnell Center for Political Leadership at the University of Louisville." McConnell was also included in the group's report in 2007 and 2008.

Electoral history

Elections are shown with a map depicting county-by-county information. McConnell is always shown in red.

Year % McConnell Opponent Party affiliation % of vote Map color County-by-county map
2008 52.9% Bruce Lunsford Democrat 47.1%  
2002 64.7% Lois Combs Weinberg Democrat 35.3%  
1996 55.5% Steve Beshear Democrat 42.8%  
Dennis L Lacy Libertarian 0.7% n/a
Patricia Jo Metten Natural Law 0.6% n/a
Mac McElroy U.S. Taxpayers 0.4% n/a
1990 52.2% Harvey I. Sloane Democrat 47.8%  
1984 49.9% Walter Huddleston (incumbent) Democrat 49.5%  
Dave Welters Socialist Workers 0.6% n/a


Personal life

McConnell is a member of the Baptist Church. His first wife was Sherrill Redmon, who is now director of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Archives at Smith Collegemarker; later divorced, they have three daughters, Elly, Claire, and Porter. His second wife, whom he married in 1993, is Elaine Chao, the former Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush.

References

  1. ACU Releases 2005 Congressional Ratings
  2. McConnell Ancestry
  3. Senator Mitch McConnell - Biography
  4. WHO/Western Pacific Region-The international polio partnership
  5. Mitch McConnell at Political Base
  6. Meet the New Boss - Zachary Roth & Cliff Schecter
  7. Zachary Roth and Cliff Schecter "Meet the New Boss", Washington Monthly, October 2006
  8. Speech to the House Appropriations Committee by Mitch McConnnell, May 3, 2001, on campaign finance reform
  9. CNN Political Ticker
  10. Politics1 Blog
  11. Face the Nation 2007-06-17
  12. 'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for July 9
  13. http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/McConnell-Outing-Controversy-Breaks-Into/story.aspx?guid=%7B2C3266E6-F4E8-4215-A107-6B72069FE8A1%7D
  14. http://www.crewsmostcorrupt.org/summaries/mcconnell.php
  15. John E. Kleber, Kentucky Bicentennial Commission, Thomas Dionsius Clark, and Lowell H. Harrison, "The Kentucky Encyclopedia", University Press of Kentucky, 1992, page 592
  16. About the Sophia Smith Collection, Women's History Manuscripts
  17. Office of Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) > Biography


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