(CNSNews.com) – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.) defended his decision to block fellow Republican Ted Cruz’ (R-Tex.) threatened filibuster of a bill to raise the nation’s debt ceiling that contained no spending reduction concessions from the White House.
“My job is to protect the country when I can and to step up and lead on those occasions when it's required. That's what I did," McConnell said at a campaign stop in Louisville, Kentucky Friday, referring to legislation he himself characterized as "irresponsible" less than a month ago.
When WHAS 11 reporter Joe Arnold asked McConnell to explain his actions in light of criticism from Cruz and others, he replied:
"My preference is for a debt ceiling to carry additional legislation that does something about the debt. I've obviously demonstrated that. I negotiated the Budget Control Act with Vice-President Biden in August of 2011. It led to a deficit reduction package that actually reduced government spending for two years in a row, for the first time since right after the Korean War.
“So my first choice would be to pass a debt ceiling that had something related to doing something about the debt on it. But as you know, Joe, the House of Representatives couldn’t pass anything other than a clean debt ceiling. They couldn’t pass anything else. The Speaker tried a whole lot of different versions of add-ons to the debt ceiling; couldn’t get the 218 [votes] no matter what combination.
“So we were confronted with a clean debt ceiling in the Senate or default,” McConnell said.
But Cruz blasted McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner on the Mark Levin Show Wednesday for playing politics with the debt ceiling issue, accusing the two top Republican leaders of engineering a “show vote” to make it look as though the GOP opposed a higher debt limit in order to fool the public.
"In the 13 months I've been in the Senate, it has become apparent to me the single thing that Republican politicians hate and fear the most, and that is when they're forced to tell the truth. It makes their heads explode," Cruz told the conservative talk show host.
"Make no mistake about it, this was their desired outcome," Cruz added. "A lot of the Republicans wanted exactly what Barack Obama wanted, exactly what Nancy Pelosi wanted, exactly what Harry Reid wanted. which is to raise the debt ceiling, but they wanted to be able to tell what they view as their foolish, gullible constituents back home they didn't do it."
The roll call "cloture" vote on the debt limit bill--which allowed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to end debate on the matter and move to a final vote--was done in secret, allowing 12 Republican senators--including McConnell--to change their votes to put together the 60 votes needed for cloture to be invoked.
The Senate then voted 55-43 to pass the bill suspending the debt limit until March 15, 2015. After voting for cloture, to allow Reid to bring the bill up, McConnell voted against the bill itself.
On Saturday, President Obama signed the bill, which was the third consecutive time Congress has voted to raise the debt ceiling without requiring any limits on federal spending.
However, on January 26th, McConnell told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace that President Obama was being “unreasonable” for demanding a “clean” debt ceiling bill when the U.S. was so deeply in the red.
“What I'm saying is we ought to attach something significant for the country to his request to increase the debt ceiling. That's been the pattern for 50 years going back to the Eisenhower administration,” McConnell said at the time. “I think it's the responsible thing to do for the country.”