CAVE CITY — The Barren County Republican Party's annual Lincoln Dinner on Saturday night at the Cave City Convention Center was U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell's first public appearance since President Donald J. Trump's impeachment trial.
The senator spoke first about his friendship with Kentucky's Attorney General Daniel Cameron and thanking him for seeking and winning the attorney general's seat, and then about what it is like to be the majority leader of the Senate.
“It's a pretty logical question,” McConnell said.
The senator was interrupted by a man who identified himself as a farmer from Warren County who entered the convention center's ball room and complained about low crop yields and blamed McConnell for cutting food stamps of the people that he and other farmers feed.
The audience “booed” the man and several people told him to “Go home!”
The man was removed from the room by police and a member of the crowd.
As the man was leaving the ball room, he could be heard saying: “Get your hands off me, sir. I don't know you.”
The senator laughed off the incident and said: “Do we have to pay anything extra for the entertainment?” His comment was met with laughter from the audience.
After the dinner had ended, authorities said the Warren County man was made to leave the property and was not charged with any crime.
Later, also during McConnell's speech, a person entered the building wearing an orange jumpsuit.
McConnell resumed his speech after the first incident and continued by explaining what it is like to be the majority leader of the Senate.
“The best answer I've been able to come up with is it's a little bit like being the grounds keeper of a cemetery. Everybody's under you, but nobody's listening,” he said.
As majority leader of the Senate, McConnell gets to decide what the Senate is going to do.
“The single biggest decision I've made during my time as majority leader was a decision not to do something, and you will remember it. It was in the 2016 election year. I said to President Obama, 'Justice Scalia did pass away but we're not going to fill that (position) in the middle of a presidential election.' (It was the) biggest decision I have ever made,” he said. “And of course that led to a vacancy being filled on the Supreme Court by President Donald Trump and then another vacancy filled on the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, filled by President Donald Trump.”
During his time as majority leader of the Senate, there have been 187 federal judges appointed in three years. Of those 187 federal judges, 50 are judges for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, he said.
“We've done 50 circuit judges in three years. Obama did 55 in eight years. That ladies and gentlemen is the way you change America long-term,” McConnell said.
He pointed out that the men and women who are being appointed are young and will be in office for a long time, because they are appointed for life. He also said the judges that have been appointed are “strict constructionists” and who “are going to apply the law as written.”
“Justice Gorsuch, who Daniel was involved in helping me get confirmed, said: 'We don't wear red robes or blue robes. We wear black robes. In other words, you need a non-partial arbiter who follows the law and the Constitution. And those are the kinds of men and women we have been putting on the courts and I hope the American people will give us an opportunity to keep doing that for four more years for the President and at least two more years for the Senate majority. Don't you?” he said.
McConnell pointed out that there are four congressional leaders and he is the only who is not from New York or California. Because of that his job is to look out for middle America.
“It won't surprise you to know that I have a favorite place in middle America— Kentucky. It gives us an opportunity to punch above our weight, … and have an impact. Not only help Kentucky with a whole variety of different things that I will be talking about this year when I get my report card. I'm hoping to get a passing grade. I've never failed to carry Barren County and I don't want to have that experience,” he said.
He went on to say that he knows he has been in office for a while, but he said he hasn't just been there.
“I'm in the middle of every major decision that is made and is looking out for rural and small town America in a variety of different ways that we will lay out in the course of this coming campaign,” he said.
McConnell also talked about President Trump's impeachment trial and explained that under the rules of impeachment in the Senate the senators convene for six days a week. During that time, the senators are not allowed to speak, which he said isn't easy for them and is something that they don't like.
He likened the time the senators spent together during the impeachment trial, not talking, to a family vacation that seemed like it had gone on a little too long.
“It felt like we all had been together too much,” he said.
The impeachment trial wrapped up on Wednesday with the president's acquittal. McConnell said he gave everyone a long weekend off, but he already has an item of business he intends to take up come Monday.
“What do you think we are going to cue up next Monday? Anybody got a guess? We are going to do five judges next week,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie also spoke about the president's impeachment.
“We did the impeachment in the fall. Our managers felt like they didn't prove their case so when the Senate they had to try to retry the case. They literally admitted they had voted for impeachment when they didn't have all the facts because the facts weren't on their side,” he said.
Guthrie continued that some of his colleagues wouldn't go home for Christmas in specific communities and listen to their constituents because if their constituents had voted the way the people wanted them to vote and not the way the Speaker of the House wanted them to vote, they wouldn't have voted to impeach the president.
He talked about McConnell not budging one inch for U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and applauded him for standing up to her.
The congressman also talked about how unprofessional some members of Congress can be and how resistant some are to work with one another.
Guthrie was first elected in 2009 when Democrats were in control of the House and the Senate. Instead of disagreeing with President Barack Obama personally, he and other Republicans disagreed with him on policy.
He made note of the tie he was wearing, which featured elephants and the number 218. Guthrie explained that it takes 218 votes to get a bill passed.
“But you tonight it's how many votes it takes to elect a different speaker of the house,” he said.
Guthrie also read part of the congressional record during which World War II veteran John Robert Miller of the Freedom community in Barren County was honored. Miller, also a Republican election commissioner for Barren County, died Tuesday. Guthrie presented a service award to Miller's three sons.
State Rep. Steve Riley and Sen. David Givens also spoke during the dinner. Both talked about a bill that was adopted by the Kentucky General Assembly on Friday that requires school resource officers to carry firearms when on duty in schools. They both also talked about Miller and shared stories about him.
On Friday, on the statehouse floor, Riley did a certificate of adjournment in memory of Miller.
“I was very proud to have that opportunity. Thank you guys for allowing us to share your dad with you,” he said.