McConnell turns down Obama invitation to celebrate Kentucky win

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellThe Memo: Winners and losers from the battle over healthcare GOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Under pressure, Dems hold back Gorsuch support MORE (R-Ky.) is passing on an invitation from President Obama to celebrate the University of Kentucky’s NCAA basketball championship at the White House on Friday.

Obama invited the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team to the White House later this week to recognize its victory over Kansas to win the 2012 national championship.

ADVERTISEMENT
The president asked McConnell to join but the Senate leader will be in Kentucky participating in festivities leading up to the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, according to a McConnell aide.

Some Kentucky Republicans are wondering if the invitation was sincere, however, given that Congress is on recess and the Kentucky Derby is scheduled for the next day. They suspect it may be what Jerry Seinfeld would call an "unvitation."

“Scheduling the UK championship visit to the White House when Congress is out of session could be confused for a lack of courtesy, but scheduling it on the eve of the Kentucky Derby seems like an obvious slight to the entire Kentucky delegation,” said a Kentucky GOP operative.

McConnell and Obama have had a spotty record of accepting each other’s entreaties.

The White House turned down an invitation from McConnell in June to meet with GOP lawmakers to discuss raising the debt ceiling.

Earlier in 2011, McConnell skipped an invitation to attend a state dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao.

A source close to McConnell says he is more a fan of the Louisville Cardinals, who lost to Kentucky in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament.

McConnell declined to publicly express a preference for either team, however.

“I am actually an alumnus of both schools. I attended the University of Louisville as an undergraduate, and I went to law school at the University of Kentucky,” McConnell said before they battled in the Final Four. “I don't know who will win Saturday's game, but whoever the winner is will go on to defeat either Kansas or Ohio State and bring the national championship back home to Kentucky where it belongs.”

He predicted that Kentucky would win the championship, even after Louisville exceeded expectations by advancing deeply in the tournament.

“I still think Kentucky is going to win it,” he told reporters.

This story was updated at 3:48 p.m.