Voinovich blasts McConnell, GOP foes of deficit commission

Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) excoriated Republican colleagues, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Tuesday for having voted against a law to set up a commission to address the nation's long-term fiscal health.

Voinovich, a longtime deficit hawk, teed off against 23 fellow Senate Republicans who jointed with some Democrats to defeat a proposed bipartisan commission to address deficits and the national debt.

"The issue that I'm raising with Republicans is if you are not for this commission, then what are you for?" Voinovich said during a conference call with reporters. "And if the president is forced into creating an executive order and you criticize that executive order, then how are you going to explain what you want to do to deal with this problem?"

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Fifty-three senators voted to create the commission, offered in an amendment by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), short of the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster.

Voinovich, who will retire next year at the end of his term, loudly criticized his party's leader for having opposed the commission, suggesting McConnell's vote against the amendment was politically motivated.

Voinovich said:

I was disappointed in Sen. [Sherrod] Brown [D] from Ohio for opposing it. I'd like to know why he opposed it. If he's opposing it, what is he for? Same question to Mitch McConnell: Mitch, if you don't like it — he came out for this last year, as The Washington Post pointed out, six times on the floor last year — and he's backed off. And this issue is, Why is he backing off?

I think that for the Republican Party, one of the important things — first of all, from a substantive view, we have to get on with this. I think that if the public perceives that the Republican Party is playing political games and putting covering people's hides and whose main goal in life is to see how many more Republicans we can get in the Senate and the House, and the public interest be damned because this is the theory that we're going to create an environment that's going to be better — I think it's going to backfire. I think the American people move to the independents. They're looking for forthrightness, they're looking for transparency here. They're looking for us to deal with problems, and they've made it pretty darn clear they want us to do it on a bipartisan basis.


The Ohio Republican left out hope that the commission could be revisited by the Senate, if President Barack Obama and congressional leaders weigh in heavily enough to flip votes. Voinovich said that the one senator to not vote, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), would support the measure, meaning six more votes were necessary.

Voinovich asserted:

I think that if the president does what I hope he does tomorrow night and really makes an issue out of it, and looks across the audience and looks to McConnell and says to him, 'Look, you were for this before and the question I have to ask is, If you're not for this, what are you for? And thanks [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.] for supporting this, and, Harry, are you sure there aren't a few more Democrats you can bring on board? I really want to do this on a bipartisan basis. I really think this is in the best interest of the nation,' I think it can get done.

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