McConnell, McGrath spar over federal response to coronavirus

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell's opponent accused him of failing the country for lack of yet another coronavirus aid package while the incumbent Republican called himself a powerful advocate for Kentucky in a highly competitive televised debate Monday night.
In their first and possibly only debate on the campaign, McConnell and Democratic challenger Amy McGrath discussed the federal response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Supreme Court nomination battle, and the Republican incumbent's decade-long track record.
McGrath, a retired Navy fighter pilot, aggressively blamed the Senator for the inability of Congress to secure another round of federal aid to a pandemic-ridden economy, calling it a "breach of duty". McConnell blamed the Congress Democrats for the stalled negotiations.
McConnell extolled his senior position in the Senate and his ability to deliver federal funds as valuable assets to Kentucky that would be lost if he left the Senate. McGrath said the incumbent Republican failed to address the state's chronic economic and health problems.
The exchange got personal as McConnell responded to the McGrath barrage and her repeated cues that recognized her naval career for her problem solver training.
"I think her entire campaign is, she's a Marine, she's a mom, and I've been there (in the Senate) too long," McConnell said.
McGrath replied, “Senator, you've been there for 36 years. How about Kentucky?” She pointed out the persistently high rates of cancer and diabetes in the state, along with the lack of broadband access and high-paying jobs in some parts of the state.
McConnell countered that he delivered billions of dollars in federal funds that McGrath couldn't replicate if she replaced him, taking her place as a freshman in the "back seat" in the Senate.
"I allow Kentucky to hit over its weight," said McConnell. “What does it mean for Kentucky last term? My final $ 17.5 billion term for the Commonwealth that would not have existed had I not been the Senate majority leader. "
The debate offered McGrath her best chance for a breakthrough against McConnell, who has long dominated the Kentucky political landscape and has consistently topped the polls in his quest for a seventh term. The personal early voting begins Tuesday and many Kentuckians are filling out postal ballot papers.
The debate comes at a crucial time for McConnell, who is running his own race while focusing on keeping his job as majority leader while the GOP struggles to keep control of the Senate.
When asked about the federal response to the coronavirus outbreak, McGrath gave President Donald Trump and Congress an "F" before turning to McConnell.
"Its only job is to help America pass laws to keep our economy alive so people can make ends meet," she said. "And instead of doing that, he's trying to ram through a Supreme Court candidate instead of negotiating what he should have been doing all summer to make it happen."
For his part, McConnell said he offered another coronavirus relief bill about a month ago, which stalled when it found no Democratic support in the Senate.
"I think they don't want a solution before the elections," he said of Congress Democrats.
Trying to blame McConnell, McGrath said, “If you want to call yourself a leader, you have to get things done. Those of us who have served in the Marines don't just point our fingers at the other side, we do the job. "
McConnell noted that at the beginning of the fight against the pandemic, he led a more than $ 2 trillion economic rescue package through the Senate. McGrath replied, "This legislation was passed in March and here we are, this coronavirus is still happening."
Kentucky's rivals also engaged in the Washington Supreme Court nomination battle. Candidate Amy Coney Barrett presented Monday at the start of hearings confirming her approach to the law as conservative and fair, while angry Democrats who couldn't stop her viewed her as a threat to American health care during the pandemic.
McGrath said there should be no vote to fill a Supreme Court position so close to the election, criticizing what she viewed as McConnell's inconsistency on the matter. Four years ago, McConnell blocked then-President Barack Obama's election of Judge Merrick Garland to fill another Supreme Court position in a presidential election year.
"Look, four years ago, during an election year under the McConnell Rule, Senator McConnell said," We don't vote on a candidate, let the people decide, "said McGrath." Well, now, 22 days before an election, we should let the people decide. "
McConnell, who leads the fast-track verification process for Barrett, called her an "exceptional candidate" and an "accomplished scholar."
The hour-long debate aired on Kentucky-based Gray Television. It came towards the end of a high-spending campaign carried out remotely, with the two competing against each other in highly competitive television commercials.
The rivals were arguing at WKYT, and Lexington station was taking a number of precautionary measures in response to the coronavirus. Kentucky is in the midst of yet another surge in COVID-19 cases.

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