Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) comments earlier this week have caused the revisiting of his role as ethics chair into a mid-1990s investigation of then-Sen. Bob Packwood (R-OR) over allegations of sexual harassment and assault that eventually lead to the senator from Oregon’s resignation.
“I think I demonstrated 19 years ago, in the toughest possible position, how this ought to be handled,” McConnell said, highlighted by the Lexington Herald-Leader.
“I was chairman of the Ethics Committee charged with the responsibility of dealing with a member of my own party as chairman [of] the most important committee in the Senate,” McConnell said in a video circulated by his campaign. “After investigating the case and bringing together all of the evidence I moved to expel him from the Senate. And the Senate on the verge of expelling him, he decided to resign.”
The subject has recently come up as McConnell’s campaign has worked to tie Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes, McConnell’s likely general election challenger, to a sexual harassment scandal in the Kentucky legislature.
But, as Molly Redden of Mother Jones noted, reports from that time show that McConnell actually tried to stop the investigation into Packwood once he became chair after the Republicans re-took the Senate in 1994. Most of the investigation into Packwood’s behavior by the ethics committee took place under the chairmanship of then Sen. Richard Bryan (D-NV).
Once McConnell became chairman, Mother Jones noted from news reports at the time, the momentum of the investigation changed. The ethics committee didn’t meet its deadline to vote on public hearings of the investigation and McConnell refused to answer questions on the progress of the investigation. McConnell also pushed to make sure the investigation of Packwood was not public, despite the demands by Democrats. At one point, McConnell also suggested on to Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) that he would even conduct other investigations
“I want you to tell her (Boxer) if she does that, we will offer amendments for hearings on Daschle and Chappaquidick. It will work both ways,” the Associated Press, as noted by Mother Jones, reported at the time. “I want you to tell her that right away.”
Boxer was eventually able to push the Senate to vote on holding public hearings on Packwood. McConnell urged Republicans to filibuster the vote (which they did), but the filibuster failed.
In the end the Senate Ethics Committee finished the investigation and McConnnell, along with the five other members of the committee, voted that Packwood should be expelled from the Senate on Sept. 7, 1995. Packwood resigned the next day.
Watch the video below: