McConnell: Proud of Paul, calls Obama dinner a PR gimmick

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell went to bat today for the new Senate filibuster king, Sen. Rand Paul, after his Kentucky colleague was rapped by GOP old bulls like Sen. John McCain angry with Paul's tactics.

"We should all be proud of Rand's efforts," said McConnell, who was with Paul on the Senate floor at midnight Wednesday. "We encouraged everybody to stand with him. Because what he was trying to get, frankly, is the answer to a question that's really not an intelligence question, but a straightforward legal one. 'Does the president have the authority to order the use of lethal force against a United States citizen who is not a combatant here on U.S. soil without due process of law?'"

McConnell, speaking on the nationally-syndicated radio program The Andrea Tantaros Show, said that many of the GOP agree with Paul, though not all helped in his filibuster of CIA director nominee John Brennan. "I wouldn't assume that Rand doesn't have broad support in the conference," said McConnell.

Without referring to the older senators blasting Paul's efforts, McConnell said that the filibuster was not a gimmick. "I don't think it's a stunt," said McConnell. "I think it's a serious question."

He also suggested that Democrats were too timid to stand up with Paul, though many might agree with them. "Democrats are loyal to the administration. They generally do what the president asks them to do," he said. McConnell added that given the choice of challenging the president or standing with Paul, "they are sitting their quietly."

The GOP leader was also asked about Obama's exclusive dinner with GOP senators at the posh Plume Restaurant, where fixed price dinner with "classic wine" goes for $185 each--before tip.

First he suggested that it's good for lawmakers to meet with the president, as he has, but it was probably a waste of time. "Unlike some of my members, I get a chance to talk to the president frequently, though generally it doesn't lead to much."

He said Obama probably reached out to Republicans to help stem his plummet in the polls.

"I think his effort so far to try to scare everybody and and try to convince the public that the sky is falling because we're going to cut federal spending 2.4 percent out of $3.6 trillion out of the next six months has been a failure. So he may feel that just trying to rub our noses in it all the time is not going to work for him," he said, citing the president's seven-point drop in the Gallup approval rating in just one week.