Teeing off on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s opposition to extending unemployment insurance benefits, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes’ campaign accused McConnell on Tuesday of “laughing” at Kentucky’s unemployed.
The Grimes campaign referred to a recording of McConnell being interviewed by radio host Lars Larson on Jan. 8. As Larson wishes McConnell well at the end of the segment, the host adds that he hopes McConnell will vote against extending unemployment benefits. McConnell chuckles in response and thanks Larson for the interview.
Charly Norton, Grimes’ press secretary, said in a statement that McConnell’s laughter is “an embarrassment.”
“It is shameful that after failing for nearly 30 years to offer a credible plan to put Kentucky back to work, Mitch McConnell has the audacity to laugh in the faces of more than 18,000 unemployed Kentuckians, including 1,200 coal miners in Pike County,” Norton said.
McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore called Norton’s statement a “desperate misrepresentation” of the interview.
“Alison Lundergan Grimes can’t articulate a single reason why she should be a U.S. Senato,r but she’s certainly got a handle on false advertising,” Moore said. “It’s incredible that at this stage in the campaign she’s already resorting to desperate misrepresentations that you see from a losing candidate on their last leg.”
In Kentucky, 18,000 people immediately lost their checks when Congress cut the extended unemployment benefits in December, and 53,200 more people will lose their checks this year unless the program is restored, according to a report issued last month by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
The program’s elimination will take $335 million in direct benefits out of Kentucky’s economy and result in the loss of 3,151 jobs statewide because of reduced spending, according to the Pew study.
During Senate debate on a three-month extension of the benefits, McConnell indicated that he was open to supporting the measure if the costs were offset by spending cuts elsewhere or if Democrats would agree to pay for the benefits by delaying the insurance mandate in President Barack Obama’s health care law for one year.
Earlier in his exchange with Larson, which runs about eight minutes, McConnell outlines his counter-offer to Democrats, saying that “if you’re going to do an unemployment extension, we certainly ought to pay for it.”
“And a good pay-for, a good way to keep it from adding to the deficit would be to delay the individual mandate for a year, which would produce enough money for the government to cover the unemployment extension,” McConnell said.