Updated: 10:25 AM
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) explained his plan to use a government shutdown as a bargaining chip against President Barack Obama to a room full of wealthy conservatives two months ago, according to audio obtained by The Nation magazine.
“So in the House and Senate, we own the budget. So what does that mean? That means that we can pass the spending bill. And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We’re going to go after them on health care, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board. … All across the federal government, we’re going to go after it,” McConnell said at a private summit hosted by the Koch Brothers.
The strategy mirrors what House Republicans did last year: they passed on a “rider” to defund Obamacare in a must-pass spending bill, and it led to the 16-day partial shutdown. But the bill died in the Democratic-led Senate, and Republicans eventually reopened the government and funded Obamacare.
McConnell is suggesting that if Republicans control the Senate, they’ll have a stronger negotiating hand to force Obama to swallow some concessions.
The Kentucky Republican stood by his comments on Wednesday.
“In contrast to Alison Lundergan Grimes’ failure to defend Kentucky coal from the EPA behind closed doors with Obama donors, Senator McConnell fights for Kentucky wherever he goes. Earlier this summer Grimes failed to utter a word of support after promising Kentuckians she would defend Kentucky coal at a Harry Reid fundraiser and lord knows what she said to Tom Steyer and anti-coal billionaires when she attended their conference in Chicago,” said Allison Moore, a spokeswoman for McConnell’s reelection campaign.
This article has been updated to include a comment from the McConnell campaign.