Hawley: End of ‘disastrous’ Mitch McConnell leadership era, switch to worker-friendly GOP, can’t come soon enough

He doesn’t know why Sen. Mitch McConnell is stepping aside in November as Republican leader in the Senate, but Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley says he’s certainly happy to see it.

In fact, November can’t come soon enough for Hawley’s taste.

“I don’t know [why McConnell will step aside], but I’m glad that it’s happening,” Hawley told The Heartlander Thursday in an exclusive interview, after McConnell announced his decision the day before. “I only wish it had come sooner – and would come sooner.

“Listen, I called on Sen. McConnell to step down from leadership over a year ago. I have not supported him as leader. We need a change, clearly – somebody who actually reflects the principles and priorities of Republican voters and working people everywhere, which he does not.  

“I just wish it would come sooner. He’s not stepping down ‘til November. I mean, why not now, is my question.”

Nearly a dozen Senate Republicans have openly yearned for McConnell’s exit as minority leader, but Hawley says he doesn’t know if that mini-mutiny is the reason the 82-year-old Kentucky senator is leaving the perch he’s held since 2006.

“It’s a good question for him,” Hawley says. “I will say, there were 11 of us – about a quarter of the Republicans in the Senate – who voted against him a little over a year ago. Clearly, his leadership has been a disaster.

“Just in the last year it’s been total chaos. It’s been continuing sellouts to the Democrats. Just look at the border deal he negotiated. You talk about an open border deal. That’s the worst border deal I’ve seen in my time in the Senate easily, and maybe ever. And that was a McConnell deal. So, it is time for new leadership, no doubt about it.”

So, what might change as a result of McConnell’s stepping aside? Plenty, says Hawley – while referencing Senate leadership’s decision late last year to cut Hawley’s defense bill provision to extend and expand federal compensation for continued victims of WWII and Cold War nuclear waste, which still radiates from eastern Missouri ground and groundwater.

“Well, it means a chance to turn the page and go forward. It means a chance to focus on working people. It means a chance to actually get something done that will be good for the people of this country. I mean, why are we sending money to Ukraine’s border when our border is wide open? Why are we sending more money to Ukraine’s military and their defense industry, when the people poisoned in our state by our defense industry can’t get a dime, can’t get compensated? 

“It doesn’t make any sense. It’s time to reverse those priorities. It’s time to put America first, to put American workers first, get American jobs back in this country. We’ve got to get refocused on that, and stop focusing on the foreign war machine, on the defense contractors, on the big corporate lobby that controls way too much stuff in Washington.”

A Washington Post columnist joined other media in seeming to lament McConnell’s coming departure from Senate leadership as a sign of “Trump’s grip” on the party.

“No, I doubt that,” Hawley said of the claim. “President Trump is going to be the nominee. He already is, really. He’s going to be officially, and I certainly support him. But I think that this is about the future direction of the Republican Party. And it’s an opportunity. We’ll see what happens. We’ve got to elect a new leader, but it is an opportunity to make real change here, and to change the direction of the party. And we need to do that.

“We’ve got to be a party that represents working people, that secures our border, that gets American industry back in Missouri, in every state, that rebuilds our economy. That’s got to be our focus – not the latest giveaway to Big Tech, not the latest giveaway to some overseas war. We’ve got to get refocused.”

Early candidates to replace McConnell include Minority Whip John Thune of South Dakota; former whip John Cornyn of Texas; and Republican Conference Chair John Barrasso of Wyoming.

Hawley said he’s not yet backing anyone in particular.

“I’m open to the various folks who want to run. I’ve fielded a lot of phone calls already, and I’m sure there’ll be more. Missouri is my No. 1 priority. So, I say to these folks: I’m going to be focused on doing what’s needed to be done in the state of Missouri. I’m going to be focused on getting nuclear radiation victims compensation. I’m going to be focused on trying to get jobs back into my state. So, if you want my support, you want my vote, help me do that. The drugs coming across the southern border, I want them out of my state. I want the schools safe. I want the streets safe.

“That is going to be my priority, and if they’re willing to help with that, then I’m open.”


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