Senate Republican leaders escaped answering questions in front of TV cameras on Mitt Romney's controversial "47 percent" remarks on Wednesday afternoon.
Senate Republicans did not address with members of the press — or collectively behind closed doors — the elephant in the ornate room where the party holds its weekly caucus luncheon, its first group meeting since the GOP presidential nominee's comments were leaked earlier this week.
For his part, McConnell cited a Times report documenting the current Congress as the "least productive in history" and congratulated Congressional Gold Medal recipient Aung San Suu Kyi before turning the presser over to his deputy, Assistant Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), and the other leaders waiting to make their statements to the cameras.
Kyl bemoaned the impending consequences should Congress fail to address the coming "fiscal cliff" of spending cuts and tax hikes, and then GOP Conference Chairman John ThuneJohn ThuneSenate GOP to Obama: Stop issuing new rules Week ahead: AT&T-Time Warner merger under scrutiny Fight breaks out at FCC over 'zero-rating' data plans MORE (R-S.D.), GOP Policy Chairman John BarrassoJohn BarrassoSenate GOP to Obama: Stop issuing new rules GOP lawmaker outlines goal to repeal and replace ObamaCare Pressure builds on M ObamaCare funding case as others wait MORE (R-Wyo.) and GOP Conference Vice Chairman Roy BluntRoy BluntCould bipartisanship rise with Trump government? Senate GOP to Obama: Stop issuing new rules Key Republicans ask Trump to keep on NIH director MORE (R-Mo.) each made their statements on various issues of the day — but did not mention the presidential race.
Before reporters realized what was happening, the four statesmen dispersed from the TV news cameras permitted to shoot the weekly post-luncheon GOP and Democratic pressers.
Their decision not to take questions on camera was an unusual departure from normal practice.
Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidOvernight Tech: FCC eyes cybersecurity role | More trouble for spectrum auction | Google seeks 'conservative outreach' director Cures bill clears first Senate hurdle Dem senator had 'constructive' talk with Trump MORE (D-Nev.), who spoke the GOP presser, answered at least a dozen questions during his time in front of the cameras.
It took a split-second for the phalanx of Capitol Hill beat reporters to realize that the GOP senators had run from the temporary podium set up in the august corridor just off the Senate floor, where the weekly pressers take place. Reporters swarmed the fleeing quartet of GOP senators to press them on Romney's remarks and whether the matter was discussed during their hour-and-a-half luncheon.
Blunt, Romney’s surrogate in the Senate, spoke to a handful of journalists 30 feet away from the temporary podium. Asked if Republican senators were concerned about Romney’s remarks to a campaign donor luncheon in Boca Raton, leaked to Mother Jones magazine, or if the legislators had discussed the matter, Blunt wouldn’t say.
“Whether there was discussion at the lunch or not, I wouldn’t want to say,” Blunt said, “just because I really don’t think we ought to talk about what was discussed at the lunch.”
He proceeded to say, however, that he does not think the matter “is of great concern to members of the Senate: it could have been better said, as Governor Romney himself said.”
Romney said in remarks captured covertly on video that almost half the country is "dependent on government" and believes the government "has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, you name it." He also said that 47 percent will "vote for this president no matter what."
A brief time later, Sen. John McCainJohn McCainThe trouble with Rex Tillerson Senate: Act now to save Ukraine A Cabinet position for Petraeus; disciplinary actions for Broadwell after affair MORE (R-Ariz.) indicated to The Hill that the matter was not discussed at the luncheon.