A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky Republican leaders tout stronger supermajority during news conference in Frankfort

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Three of Kentucky’s top Republican leaders spoke to reporters Friday about the huge gains the GOP has made in the state over the past 36 years.

During a press conference at the Kentucky History Center in Frankfort, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was joined by Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, and House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect.

They pointed out in 1984, the year McConnell was first elected to the U.S. Senate, the Kentucky Senate had 28 Democrats and 10 Republicans. Heading into the 2021 session, it will be 30 Republicans and eight Democrats.

Kentucky Republican leaders U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, left, Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker David Osborne, right, spoke about the strength of the party Friday in Frankfort. (Photo by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today)

The Kentucky House has undergone a similar change: in 1984 Democrats outnumbered Republicans 77-23. The number has changed after this year’s election, where 75 Republicans and 25 Democrats will take the oath of office in January – practically a total flip from 36 years ago.

Control of the U.S. House will remain in the hands of the Democrats, while the Senate is still too close to call for 2021 and will likely hinge on two special elections conducted in Georgia next month.

The presidential race came up for discussion and McConnell was asked about comments President Trump made at the White House on Thursday night regarding mail-in ballots and claiming the process to count ballots is unfair and corrupt, without offering any evidence or details to back up his remarks.

McConnell referred reporters to a post he made on Twitter this morning, in which he said, “Here’s how this must work in our great country: Every legal vote should be counted. Any illegally submitted ballots must not. All sides must get to observe the process. And the courts are here to apply the laws & resolve disputes. That’s how Americans’ votes decide the result.”

He told reporters who repeatedly sought clarification, “Beyond that, I don’t have anything to say. It won’t make any difference how many times you ask I’ve already given my answer.”

The majority leader said the lower unemployment rate and GDP growth during the last quarter despite the coronavirus pandemic means the country will likely see a scaled-back version of another rescue package due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I do think we need another one,” McConnell said, “but I think it reinforces the argument that I’ve been making the last few months, that something smaller, rather than throwing another $3 trillion at this issue, is more appropriate with it highly targeted towards things that are directly related to the coronavirus, which we all know is not going away until we get a vaccine.”

Stivers echoed McConnell’s remarks about the economy.

“Our economy is coming back very strong right now in the state of Kentucky. And the reason, in my opinion, is that because of what we did in 2016 in changing the economic dynamics and all the things you saw with the critical investments that took place over the last three years, prior to the new administration.”

Osborne said the increased GOP majority in the House shows their wider appeal across Kentucky, including urban and suburban areas. “I believe the House Republicans now have more seats that include portions of Jefferson and Fayette counties than the House Democrats had in the entirety of the rest of the state, east of I-65 and west of I-75.”

Osborne said despite the continued COVID-19 threat, the 2021 session will be different, as their IT staff is working on how to let their 100 members vote remotely from their offices, rather than having to text their votes to leaders on the floor to be read aloud as they did during the final days of 2020.

“We are also consulting with some scientists and public health officials about creating the best protocols possible we can make so that we can conduct our business, which we have to do, in the safest possible manner,” he said.

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