Primary challenger dismisses McConnell's budget vote

Sen. Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellThe Trail 2016: Biting the hand that feeds him McConnell: Trump should release his tax returns Adelson aides in talks to make pro-Trump super PAC MORE’s (R-Ky.) primary opponent Matt Bevin slammed the senator for his opposition to the budget deal, saying it was too little too late and chalking his motivations up to fears about his reelection fight.

“I think he’s looking for cover because he’s running for reelection,” Bevin told The Hill, shortly after the Senate voted for cloture on the budget deal Tuesday.

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Bevin said McConnell’s opposition wasn’t enough, and that, had he shown “real” leadership, the Senate minority leader would’ve made an effort to block its passage from the beginning. McConnell had not gone public with his opposition prior to the vote, though sources close to the senator had indicated last week that he would oppose it.

“Is it really having the type of effect that it could have? Had he been a real leader, he would’ve been working across the House lines” to rally opposition to the law, Bevin said.

The deal, brokered by Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanLobbying World New York Times editors back Puerto Rico bill GOP senator to Ryan: 'Trump is where the Republicans are’ MORE (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty MurrayPatty MurraySenate backs equal pay for female soccer players Feds can learn lessons from states about using data to inform policy Lawmakers blast poultry, meat industries over worker injuries MORE (D-Wash.), passed the House last week with majority support from both parties, despite facing heavy opposition from a number of prominent conservative groups.

Nearly every conservative primary challenger to a sitting Republican senator voiced their opposition to the deal over the past week, including Bevin, who called McConnell "missing in action" on the deal and characterized it as a "fool's errand."

Nearly every one of those senators voted against allowing the deal to go to a vote in the Senate on Tuesday.

Bevin dismissed McConnell’s opposition as motivated by political concerns.

“He should not be voting to try to position himself to be reelected, he should be voting and leading with conviction and doing the will of his constituents here in Kentucky,” Bevin said.

“He just doesn’t spend any time listening, or maybe he doesn’t care. I don’t know what it is,” he added. “But he’s only doing a lot of these things in reaction to the fact that he’s running for reelection. It’s a shame that it takes a reelection fight to get him to do the right thing.”

McConnell's spokeswoman Allison Moore called Bevin "shameless" for criticizing McConnell for opposing the deal, suggesting he'd say anything to attack the incumbent and that his comments are hypocritical.

"MIT Matt Bevin is a man that is so out of touch he doesn't recognize the spending caps he's screaming for leadership to protect were actually authored by Senator McConnell. Ninety-percent of people who walk the planet would be humiliated by the gymnastics this guy does to criticize Senator McConnell, but if his campaign has proven anything it's that he is shameless," she said.

--This piece was updated at 3:12 p.m. to reflect comment from McConnell's campaign.

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