FRANKFORT, Ky. — Republicans will have the largest majority in the state legislature either party has enjoyed in decades, and both the House Speaker and Senate President hope that means Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear will be more willing to sit down with them.
“We’ve been asking for months for that to happen, and every time we have tried to force the issue he has accused us of playing politics,” House Speaker David Osborne said. “Clearly, he decided to play politics in this: He recruited candidates, he raised enormous amounts of money, he endorsed candidates, he campaigned for candidates, and every single one of them lost.”
Osborne didn’t want to call the election a referendum on Beshear, but he said it’s clear most of the state prefers the GOP.
One of the top priorities for Republicans will be limiting the governor’s emergency powers.
Senate President Robert Stivers says the GOP isn’t interested in undoing Beshear’s actions on the coronavirus, but more voices are needed to make sure the restrictions are fair.
“This is a time when you really need to follow the constitution,” Stivers said. “There has not been even application of anything he has done. You can have a protest. We agree with protest. But then he sends state troopers out to churches to cite people?”
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell also spoke with the legislative leaders Friday at the Kentucky History Center in Frankfort, discussing the possibility of a new round of coronavirus relief from Congress by the end of the year.
He says it’ll be small in scope, though, and Republicans won’t push for any more lockdowns.
“We can’t shut the economy down again,” McConnell said. “So the message to us is how do we work safely through this period until we get a vaccine.”
And the advice to do that is the same as it has always been: social distancing and wearing a mask.
Osborne said there will be new measures in place to keep people safe when the next session starts in January, including remote voting for lawmakers.
Osborne also indicated a willingness to examine making some of the new election rules put in place this year permanent, although he noted some county clerks had issues adjusting.
“I think that you will see some of these changes made permanent, but I also think that in consultation with the clerks, the (Kentucky County) Clerk’s Association, we certainly want to consider their input as well because they’re the ones actually fulfilling these orders,” Osborne said.
Osborne said it’s premature to say exactly what voting changes lawmakers will pursue, although it’s safe to assume some form of early voting will be proposed.
The incoming general assembly is scheduled to meet for a retreat next month before the session starts in January.
McConnell On The Race For President
McConnell declined to answer multiple questions regarding the presidential election, instead referring people to a tweet he sent earlier in the morning.
“I’m not going to answer any hypotheticals about where we go from here,” McConnell said. “I think this is ultimately going to be decided the way I said in my tweet: you’re going to have contests, you’re going to have court decisions; that’s how we settle these kinds of disputes in this country.”
Spectrum News 1 asked him what he would say to Americans who believe they need to hear more from the current Senate Majority Leader.
“I say to Americans, ‘Take a look at what I had to say this morning,’” McConnell said.
McConnell said he’s watching closely what happens with the two runoff elections in January for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats; incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue will face Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff in one Senate race, and incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler will face Democrat Raphael Warnock in the special Senate election.
Georgia state law requires a runoff election if none of the candidates receive more than 50% of the vote.
McConnell acknowledged the possibility of a Joe Biden presidency while discussing prospects for an evenly-divided Senate if Democrats win the two Georgia Senate seats.
“If the Democrats were to win the two seats, Chuck Schumer would be the majority leader. And the significance of that job as we’ve discussed before is the majority leader gets to decide what the agenda is, what you’re going to do, what you’re not going to do,” McConnell said. “This is not yet decided in this overwhelmingly close national election. We had a very good day.”
In an evenly-split Senate, the Vice President would be the tie-breaking vote and their party would become the de-facto majority party.