7 hours ago

McConnell sidesteps Romney diss with a smile

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Washington (CNN) – Often, a person’s body language says more than words.

That appeared true Tuesday afternoon when Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell forced a big smile instead of responding to a CNN question about Mitt Romney’s weekend comments criticizing fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill.

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Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, Romney called it a mistake for President Obama to propose the deal that ended last year’s debt limit fight, and added that it was “a mistake for Republicans to go along with it.”

That deal calls for some $100 billion in mandatory spending cuts at the end of this year – half from the defense budget – unless Congress comes up with a new plan.

When asked by CNN for his reaction to Romney “dissing” him and other GOP lawmakers for going along with the cuts, known as “sequestration,” McConnell grinned widely, if not sincerely.

“Look, I don’t have any interest in getting into a debate with the nominee of our party,” McConnell responded, going on to say – smile still firmly in place – “I know you would like for me to do that but I don’t have any interest in doing that.”

Trying one more time to get him to bite, we asked why he thinks Romney made the comment.
“You’ll have to ask him why he said what he said,” replied McConnell.

Earlier in the day, House Speaker John Boehner didn’t answer directly a reporter’s question about Romney’s criticism of him and other congressional Republicans, but defended his own role.

“Listen it was a difficult time. I still look at my failure to come to an agreement with the president as the biggest disappointment of my speakership,” Boehner said, speaking about his ill-fated discussions with President Obama last summer over a broad deal to cut spending and reduce the deficit.

Boehner was also partisan in his response, even pointing people to a specific page in Bob Woodward’s new book on the saga as a defense.

“The president didn’t want to have a second round of a fight over increasing the debt limit. And ya know, look at Mr. Woodward’s book that came out this morning, page 326, it’ll make it perfectly clear where the sequester came from. We’d been in discussion over a trigger, but the president didn’t want his re-election inconvenienced by another fight over a 1.2 trillion dollar increase in the debt ceiling. That’s why we have it,” said Boehner.

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, Romney’s running mate, was among the many Republicans who backed the sequestration deal Romney is now slamming.

Filed under: 2012 • Congress • Mitch McConnell • Mitt Romney