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Transcript: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on "Face the Nation," March 20, 2022

McConnell: "Vast majority" of GOP "totally behind" Ukraine
McConnell says "vast majority" of Republicans "totally behind" Ukraine 07:08

The following is a transcript of an interview with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that aired Sunday, March 20, 2022, on "Face the Nation."

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to Face the Nation, we turn now to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who joins us from Louisville, Kentucky, this morning. Good morning to you, sir. Welcome to Face the Nation. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden heads to Europe this week to meet with NATO allies. You helped give him about 13 billion in urgent support along with the rest of Congress. What do you expect the president to deliver this week?

SEN. MCCONNELL: Well, we've given him plenty of money. I think he needs to step up his game. He's generally done the right thing, but never soon enough. Mean, let's take a look at what's happened here. The Ukrainians have killed more Russians in three weeks than we lost in Afghanistan and Iraq in 20 years. I think we ought to go into this believing the Ukrainians can actually win. And the way they win is for us to get these defensive weapons system to them as rapidly as possible. For example, I am perplexed as to why we couldn't get the Polish Russian MiGs into the country. Now, the Ukrainians have plenty of pilots who know how to fly them. 


SEN. MCCONNELL: In those Eastern Bloc countries, they have Soviet ground to air systems that the Ukrainians know how to work. We have the resources we give-given to the president to get those weapons in there as rapidly as possible. 


SEN. MCCONNELL: And then we provided loan guarantees to the countries that ship the weapons into Ukraine to purchase new weapons and probably better weapons from us. So what I'd like to see the president do is to reassure our Eastern Bloc allies. It's fine to go to Brussels. It's fine to go to Berlin, and I'd like to see him go to Romania or Poland--


SEN. MCCONNELL:  --or to the Baltics. They're right on the front lines-- 


SEN. MCCONNELL: --and need to know that we're in this fight with them to win.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There aren't a lot of policy differences here, really, other- I mean, you agree with the president that there should not be a no-fly zone. There's a matter of a few dozen MiG fighter jets there, but I don't hear a lot of policy differences from Republicans. In your view, does the 13 billion that you all just authorized ensure the funding of a Ukrainian insurgency if the government were to fall? Like how long does this money last for?

SEN. MCCONNELL: Well, if they need more, we ought to give them more. Look, what- this is a way to have a no fly zone in effect, to have these weapons systems ground to air weapon systems give them a fighting chance to control the air, to shoot down planes and others that are seeking to control the air. Without the US having a no fly zone that has our own pilots in there. So, I think the weapons systems are available. Look, I think we need to change our attitude here. The Ukrainians could actually win this thing-- 


SEN. MCCONNELL: --and that's what- the attitude we ought to have that we're in it to help them win.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You are very clear in your language there, but others in your party have not been. Congresswoman Liz Cheney has said there's actually a Putin wing of the Republican Party these days. Think she's referring to Congressman Cawthorn, who called Zelenskyy a thug? Marjorie Taylor Greene said the U.S. should not fund a war the Ukrainians cannot possibly win. Is there any room in the Republican Party for this rhetoric and why isn't there more discipline?

SEN. MCCONNELL: Well, there's some lonely voices out there that are in a different place, but looking at Senate Republicans, I can tell you that I would have had I been the Majority Leader put this Ukraine supplemental up by itself. I think virtually every one of my members would have voted for it. The vast majority of the Republican Party writ large, both in the Congress and across the country, are totally behind the Ukrainians and urging the president to do- take these steps quicker. Yeah, to be bolder. So, there may be a few lonely voices off the side. I wouldn't pay much attention to them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about what is about to get underway this week. You've said President Biden's nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Brown Jackson, is very intelligent, clearly qualified and highly likely to be confirmed. You personally have voted against her before. Are you inclined to vote for her this time?

SEN. MCCONNELL: You know, we had a very good conversation in my office and I asked her, you know, typically the Supreme Court nominees of both parties have never answered the questions. What they typically say is that something that might come before me, and I don't want to prejudge how I might actually vote, but I ask her to defend the court. Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Breyer both publicly opposed court packing that is--


SEN. MCCONNELL: --trying to increase the number of court- court members in order to get an outcome you like, that would have been an easy thing for her to do to defend the integrity of the court. She wouldn't do that. So, in the meantime, the committee will ask her all the tough questions. I haven't made a final decision as to how I'm going to vote.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You haven't made a final decision, but you're open to be persuaded? I mean, this is a historic nominee.

SEN. MCCONNELL: I'm going to listen to the evidence. I'm going to listen to the hearings. And by the way, she'll be treated much better than Democrats typically treated Republican nominees like Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh. It will be a respectful, deep-dive into her record, which I think is entirely appropriate for a lifetime appointment.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mmhmm. So you are open to voting for her then? OK, we'll see.

SEN. MCCONNELL: I'm willing to listen to the testimony. That's why we have hearings.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK, I want to ask you as well about COVID aid. Dr. Fauci on another network this morning said Congress needs to authorize spending to continue to build up our supply of antivirals of tests and give the ability to provide booster shots. Republicans haven't been on board with this idea of more COVID aid. Dr. Fauci says we need it. Are you afraid of an empty arsenal?

SEN. MCCONNELL: Well, last year, the Congress passed a two trillion dollar package, allegedly for COVID and passed on an entirely partisan basis. Much of that money is yet to be spent. We're willing to listen to the case that we need to spend more money on COVID, but they ought to reprogram some of this massive amount that was spent last year that's not out the door yet. So let's take a look at how to pay for it, and then we'll be happy to decide whether or not to support it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Minority Leader McConnell, thank you very much for your time today. We'll be right back.

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