LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — Less than two weeks away from getting his own job evaluation from voters, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Congress deserves its dismal approval ratings, blaming Senate Democrats for the public's disgust.
Grousing about Congress is as common as yelling at baseball umpires, the five-term incumbent Republican said Thursday. The mounting disapproval rates for Congress — including an Associated Press-GfK poll showing Congress with a 13 percent approval rating last summer — are "richly deserved," McConnell said.
"We basically don't do squat. And there are a lot of problems out there that need to be addressed," he said.
McConnell blamed congressional inaction on Senate Democrats willing to let President Barack Obama impose policies through regulations. McConnell said the Republican-led U.S. House has passed hundreds of bills that arrived in the Senate only to "drop in a black hole."
McConnell's Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes, has accused the senator of orchestrating a GOP strategy of gridlock. Grimes campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton referred to him as a "do-nothing DC insider."
"The self-professed 'Guardian of Gridlock' must think we're all fools to believe that the solution to this mess is re-electing the person that caused it," Norton said.
McConnell and Grimes are locked in a bitter, close race that could help decide which party controls the Senate next year.
Obama has been McConnell's favorite foil on the campaign trail in an attempt to link Grimes with the president, who is unpopular in Kentucky. McConnell said he's willing to work with the Democratic president in the next two years — if Obama is willing to compromise.
"I think what the country would like to see is the president get off this sort of left-wing mission that he's on, come to the political center and let's tackle some of the big problems confronting the country," McConnell said.
Republicans need to score a net gain of six seats in the Nov. 4 election to gain majority status.
If they do so, McConnell would be in line to become Senate majority leader.
McConnell mentioned taxes as a key issue for Congress, saying a high corporate tax rate costs the country jobs. He mentioned free trade and the Keystone XL pipeline as other top issues for Senate Republicans, as well as dismantling the Affordable Care Act.
McConnell didn't mention Grimes until 20 minutes into his speech to the Rotary Club, taking a swipe at the Democratic challenger's call for change.
"She's a new face to vote for the president's agenda, a new face to make Harry Reid the majority leader of the Senate. She's a new face for no change at all," he said.
Norton, Grimes' spokeswoman, said only McConnell "is delusional enough to argue he is the candidate of change in this race."
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