Sen. McConnell discusses Afghanistan, COVID-19 vaccines in Owensboro

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OWENSBORO, Ky. (WEHT) As thousands of Afghans and Americans in Afghanistan are evacuated, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell reacts to the unfolding events and whether the U.S. should have withdrawn from the country. The senator was in Owensboro earlier today.

As U.S. officials report one of the biggest days of airlifts out of the country, Senator McConnell says the process in getting Americans and Afghans out of the country should have been done different.

“We gave up Bagram Air Force base, which has multiple runways instead of protecting the airport in Kabul. It could have been done much better, it wasn’t going to be a debacle any time it occurred,” he said.

But President Biden said Sunday evacuations are accelerating and U.S. troops are helping with security at the airport in Kabul. The president adds history will show the right call was made. Senator McConnell disagreed with withdrawing from Afghanistan, saying there have been no deaths of American troops in a year-and-a-half. He also claimed President Biden had no plan.

“It’s been an unmitigated disaster, an embarrassment, a stain on our country,” he said. “Our NATO allies who were there with us in Afghanistan, of course, left and they’ve been highly critical of this decision. Now, we are stuck with it.”

Back in Kentucky, Democratic state lawmakers and other groups helping refugees asked Governor Beshear and Kentucky’s congressional delegation to offer some refugees a permanent home in the commonwealth. McConnell says there needs to be a place for those relocating to Kentucky.

“Catholic Charities usually works on relocating refugees. Some Afghans may go to other countries, some will come here. We need to welcome them,” said Sen. McConnell.

Senator McConnell adds they need to get all those who want to leave Afghanistan out of that country, no matter how long it takes.

On vaccinations, Senator McConnell says vaccinations are still working, despite the recent spike in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant.

“Hopefully, the decision today by the FDA will reassure additional people,” he said.

CDC figures show more than 55% of Kentuckians have at least one dose, compared to about half of Indiana residents and about 65% of the people in Illinois,. But Senator McConnell says it should be up to businesses, and other non-government groups on if vaccinations should be required.

“I think some companies, hospitals, are requiring it of their employees. There may be more of that. I don’t think the government’s role to mandate,” he said.

While Senator McConnell was in Owensboro today, the House of Representatives is preparing to reconvene this week. It is expected to take up several major pieces of legislation, including the Senate approved infrastructure bill and a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill. Senator McConnell says he supported the infrastructure bill, but not the reconciliation bill.

“It will be interesting to watch,” he said, describing how the House will handle both bills. “I do support the infrastructure bill, I think it’s good for the country. I don’t support what the rest of what the Democrats are trying to do.”

Another major bill is the Voting Rights Act, which supporters say includes restore provisions compelling states with history of discrimination to undergo federal review of their election laws. But McConnell opposes what he claims is a federal takeover of state run elections.

“The bill is designed for the federal government to take over how we run elections in this country. There is no evidence of discrimination in any more based on race in any state in America,” said Sen. McConnell.

(This story was originally published on August 23, 2021)

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