McConnell blasts 'modern-day McCarthyism,' defends blocking election bills

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills GOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties MORE (R-Ky.), under fire for blocking two election security bills, hit back on Monday comparing the attacks against him to “modern-day McCarthyism.”

“I was called unpatriotic, un-American and essentially treasonous by a couple of left-wing pundits on the basis of bold-faced lies. I was accused of aiding and abetting the very man I’ve singled out as an adversary and opposed for nearly 20 years, Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinGOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties We have now reached a code red moment in American democracy Jane Harman: NATO must use its brain cells to battle these threats MORE,” McConnell said during a fiery speech from the Senate floor. 

He added that his critics, specifically pointing out The Washington Post and MSNBC, were using “unhinged smears,” adding “welcome to modern-day McCarthyism.”

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“These pundits are lying, lying when they dismiss the work that has been done. They’re lying when they insist I have personally blocked actions which, in fact, I have championed and the Senate has passed. They are lying when they suggest that either party is against defending our democracy.”

McConnell sparked a firestorm of criticism last week when he blocked attempts by Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law | Michigan governor seeks to pause Medicaid work requirements | New front in fight over Medicaid block grants House, Senate Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law Why a second Trump term and a Democratic Congress could be a nightmare scenario for the GOP MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to pass election security legislation by unanimous consent. Under Senate rules any one senator can try to pass a bill, but any one senator can object. 

The two pieces of legislation are supported largely by Democrats, giving them next to no chance of passing the GOP-controlled Senate without a vote. One of the bills would require the use of paper ballots, the other would require candidates, campaigns or family members to notify the FBI about assistance offers from foreign governments. 

“These theatrical requests happen all the time here on the Senate. I promise that nobody involved, including my friend the Democratic Leader who made the request, actually thought he’d get a Republican Senate to instantly, unanimously pass a bill that got one Republican vote over in the House,” McConnell said from the Senate floor on Monday. 

“It doesn’t make Republicans traitors or un-American. It makes us policymakers with a different opinion,” he added. 

The Senate has passed two election-related bills this year but sweeping legislation offered by House Democrats has hit a wall in the GOP-controlled chamber. 

Republicans argue they have done plenty to help secure future elections, including providing $380 million to states for election security efforts in last year's government funding bills. 

They've also credited the Trump administration with making strides to secure the 2018 election and held a briefing on the topic earlier this month with administration officials.

“This administration made huge strides, huge strides on election security since 2016,” McConnell added. “They have made a noticeable impact in securing the 2018 election.”