Republican leaders chose not to respond to Senate Democratic leaders who excoriated Mitt Romney on Wednesday on the Senate floor.
After Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) slammed Romney’s comments that 47 percent of the nation is dependent on the government, GOP leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) made a statement about Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit to Washington.
Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) followed with more criticism of Romney, but the two Republicans who spoke on the floor after the second-ranking Senate Democrat shifted the subject to Democrats’ failure to pass a budget.
It was unclear why McConnell did not immediately rebut Reid's broadside or counter with his own attack on President Obama's past comments on redistributing wealth
It is possible the GOP leader thought it was a better tactic to avoid continuing the discussion about Romney, since this would ensure the subject remained Romney’s comments about the 47 percent. Or Reid's comments could have caught him unprepared.
McConnell did not mention Romney at all in his remarks, and instead talked about the interest he’s taken in Suu Kyi’s cause.
A spokesman for McConnell said his boss had long planned to devote his morning remarks to the Burmese dissident.
"The speech was planned for weeks. A hero in the effort to spread democracy came to the Capitol today and she deserved to be recognized," said John Ashbrook.
“Over the years, I followed Suu Kyi closely and I’ve done what I could to advance her cause,” he said. “Along with Sen. [Dianne] Feinstein [D-Calif.] I have worked to get the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act enacted every year since 2003 as a way of pressuring the regime to reform itself.”
McConnell’s comments were starkly nonpolitical when juxtaposed with the remarks from Durbin and Reid.
“He’s completely out of touch with Americans,” Reid declared of Romney, pouncing on Romney’s videoed comments from a Florida fundraiser, which surfaced this week.
Reid said Romney’s dismissive comments about “47 percent” of America who “believe they are victims” impeach his candidacy.
Durbin delivered a lengthy quotation of Romney’s comments from the Boca Raton, Fla., fundraiser in May before highlighting other Romney statements.
“We remember the highlights: ‘Corporations are people, my friend,’ he said. ‘I like being able to fire people,’ he said. ‘I’m not concerned about the very poor,’ Romney said. ‘I’m also unemployed,’ Romney said,” Durbin recounted.
The next two Republican senators to take the floor after Durbin did not defend their nominee from the political attacks.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, rose to raise a budgetary objection against a Democratic amendment to legislation to boost employment among military veterans.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) took the floor after Sessions to support the objection.