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McConnell Avoids Calling Out Colleagues On Election Doubts, Vaccine Distrust

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Josh James
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WUKY

While debates rage on in Republican circles about the validity of the 2020 presidential election and wariness over COVID-19 vaccines, the U.S. Senate's top Republican says his focus is squarely on defeating big-ticket spending items and tax increases proposed by the Biden administration.

During a swing through Lexington Wednesday, Sen. Mitch McConnell was quizzed on the effort to oust Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership post in the House following her denunication of efforts to delegitimize the November election. Instead, the Kentucky lawmaker pivoted to the day's theme of Democrats' spending proposals.

The goal of the federal aid packages, McConnell argued, is to "turn America into a socialist country," adding that he remains "100 percent" focused on defeating the proposals. 

In recent days, he's referred to the plans as a "$4.1 trillion grab bag" and predicted zero Republican support for the packages in their current form. This week McConnell went further, tying Biden to a certain Vermont senator who also made a recent trip to Kentucky to stump alongside potential U.S. Senate candidate Charles Booker.  

"The president may have won the nomination, but Bernie Sanders won the argument about what the new administration should be like," McConnell said.

During his stop in Louisville, Sen. Sanders also took aim at McConnell, saying the minority leader is fighting for the wealthy while progressives fight for working families.

The rhetoric sets the stage for a major battle over spending and tax increases in Washington, and it's unclear if any compromises could flip key votes in the Senate.

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On the vaccination front, with herd immunity against COVID-19 now looking harder to reach, McConnell reiterated his support for the vaccines — while stopping short of calling out fellow Republicans for fueling skepticism about the shots.

Acknowledging the slowdown in vaccination rates and the increasingly complicated task of convincing opponents to agree to the shot, McConnell had a football analogy.

"This last 20 yards, it looks to me, are going to be kind of difficult," he said.

Difficult, in part because a recent Gallup poll found a quarter of Americans still check the "no" box on the vaccine. Asked whether he lays any blame at the feet of fellow GOP lawmakers who have sown mistrust about the vaccines, McConnell stuck to his own message.

"I can only speak for myself. I'm a big proponent of wearing masks, getting vaccinated, and I've tried, at least for myself, to say the things that I think the American people need to hear," McConnell responded.

The vaccine hesitancy and hostility showing up in polling has ticked downward slightly from 29 percent at the start of 2021, according to Gallup. A separate Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky survey in mid-April suggested half of the 29 percent who leaned against vaccination in the commonwealth said they are open to changing their minds with more information and time.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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