Senator McConnell Visits Morgantown
United States Senator Mitch McConnell made a stop in Morgantown on Thursday. He was campaigning in the western half of the state as he continues to find himself in a hotly contested reelection bid against Democrat challenger Allison Lundergan-Grimes.
For almost an hour the Senator spoke to a welcoming crowd at the Eva J. Hawes Building in the city park. McConnell used the appearance at Butler County's Ag Expo Center to remind the crowd of his record as an agriculture advocate during his time in the Senate. Mc Connell is the only two-time winner of the Golden Plow, the award given annually by the Farm Bureau to the US Senator deemed to be the strongest supporter of agriculture issues.
The Senator outlined his recent victory against opposing Democrats in Congress who were trying to eliminate crop insurance for tobacco farmers. He said that his efforts to get the insurance provisions passed were important for farmers still hit hard from the government's recent war on tobacco, which has traditionally been a vital cash crop in rural states.
"We are still largely a rural, and small town state," said McConnell. He continued, saying, "Looking out for small towns is part of my job."
Once the floor was opened for questions the Obama administrations stance on coal became a major topic of discussion. McConnell told the crowd, "This administration has a particular hostility towards coal."
Speaking to recent regulatory crackdowns on the coal industry the Senator pointed out that while America is making regulations aimed at lowering green house gases, that the rest of the world isn't following suit. According to the Senator nations such as Australia, Great Britain, and Germany have curtailed their efforts to eliminate coal burning power plants. He said that those nations have realized that electricity produced by coal-fired plants is still necessary while alternative energy methods are perfected and become more widespread.
McConnell told the crowd that both India and China are building new coal-fired power plants to burn American coal, without regulatory restrictions.
"Nobody else is going to do this," said McConnell of the new, stringent emissions regulations imposed on the coal industry in America.
Bringing the topic back to his reelection bid he used a sports comparison to illustrate his fight in the present Senate. "Right now we're on the defensive. It's possible to score on defense, and we've done that, but to really score we need to be on the offensive," said McConnell alluding to the GOP minority in the US Senate.
He implored the crowd to help change the Senate in the 2014 general election. "Make me the head of a new majority to take America in a new direction." McConnell also told the crowd that for the first time in the nation's history that the elder generation is afraid that they won't leave a better country for generations to come. "Leaving behind a better America for our children is in doubt," said McConnell.
The Senator continued to voice his opposition to Obamacare, and promised if the GOP wins back control of the Senate he will work to repeal the law. "We will go after it in every way that we can." He was also blunt in his opinion of the Affordable Care Act saying, "it's a disaster."
Although McConnell is confident a Republican Senate will repeal the ACA he reminded the crowd that President Obama would still have to sign legislation repealing the act, which could leave GOP hands tied unless they can take control of the White House in 2016.
Local physician Gayeth Hammad turned the discussion from domestic issues to foreign policy with his question to McConnell regarding the actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, otherwise known as ISIS, in his homeland of Syria.
Hammad told McConnell that he was born in Syria, and grew up there before immigrating to the United States. He said that he has family and many friends in Syria, both Christian and Muslim. Hammad likened the growing influence of ISIS to previous Islamic Fundamentalist revolutions in Iran and Afghanistan. According to Hammad the influence and power of ISIS is "spreading like a cancer." He then asked McConnell if the USA was going to repeat the mistakes of the past and allow Islamic Fundamentalists to overthrow lawful, stable governments in West Asia.
McConnell agreed with Dr. Hammad that the United States needs to do something about ISIS, but says options are limited. He said that there have been two major mistakes with US foreign policy in the region. According to him the first mistake was leaving Iraq.
"At the time President Bush left office (the Iraq war) was won," said the Senator. He pointed out that after previous wars the United States had left troops in Germany, Japan, and Korea to protect civilian populations against civil unrest and foreign aggressors. McConnell said that generals advised that ground forces should have been left in Iraq, but President Obama decided to pull troops out of the country.
The second mistake of US policy in the region according to the Senator was supporting the wrong side in Syria during their recent internal revolution. He said the combination of those mistakes left the United States in a difficult situation in the region. "Options at this stage are limited," said McConnell.
He continued speaking about Islamic extremists in the region. "They hit us on 9-11 from over there. Now ISIS has the ability to hit us here."
Speaking further on what he perceives to be failings of the Obama administration's foreign policy, the Senator commented about the United State's reaction to the ongoing conflict between Russia and the Ukraine over Crimea. He said that when the Ukraine asked for aid instead of using the power of the US military that President Obama instead chose to send MRE (meals ready to eat) military rations instead of real help. He said actions such as that send a message to the rest of the world that America is in decline.
Before leaving for another campaign stop in Grayson County, McConnell closed his remarks with an exhortation for his supporters to help reelect him to the US Senate, and set a new course for America.
Closing his remarks the Senator said, "We have the ability to change things at the ballot box."