LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. (AP) — Nearly 1,000 people jeered Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as he drove to a speech Tuesday where he told local business leaders that "winners make policy and the losers go home."
Protesters crowded the American Legion Post 34 Fairgrounds, kept at bay by several police officers and a chain link fence. The crowd chanted "No ban, no wall, Mitch McConnell take our call" as McConnell drove past in a black SUV. It was the first of several scheduled public appearances for McConnell this week during a congressional recess. Protesters upset with Republican President Donald Trump's policies have vowed to follow McConnell to every stop.
A small group of protesters managed to get in the building for McConnell's speech, where attendees had to RSVP to the Anderson County Chamber of Commerce. One woman, 54-year-old Rose Perkins of Georgetown, stood and wagged her finger at McConnell as she asked him about the thousands of coal jobs that have disappeared in eastern Kentucky.
"If you'll answer that, I'll sit down and shut up like Elizabeth Warren," Perkins said, a reference to McConnell invoking Senate rules to silence the Massachusetts senator during her speech opposing Jeff Sessions' confirmation as U.S. attorney general.
"I hope you feel better now," McConnell said as he moved on to the next question.
Several people stood and booed as McConnell finished his remarks, including answering a few questions about the Affordable Care Act and the regulations on the financial industry imposed by the legislation known as Dodd-Frank. McConnell referred to the protesters several times as "the people outside," but he said he was proud of them for expressing themselves.
"I respect their right to be there. That's what we do in this country," he said. "They had their shot. When you win the election you get to make policy."
McConnell said that while he did not approve of some of Trump's incendiary tweets, Trump has implemented the same policies as Sen. Marco Rubio or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush would have had they been elected president.