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Mitch McConnell On Paul Ryan Speech Criticism: 'I Don't Get That'

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

TAMPA, Fla. -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan's Wednesday night speech to the GOP convention, and said President Barack Obama has done nothing to deal with the nation's deficits and debt.

"I don't get that," McConnell said of those who have criticized Ryan's speech, during a 20-minute interview at the Kentucky Republican's hotel on the convention's last day.

"The point is Bowles-Simpson has aspects that we know the president likes, and yet he didn't embrace it. It was his commission, not Paul Ryan's commission. His," McConnell told The Huffington Post. "And the point Ryan was making is, he hasn't endorsed any approach to fixing the big problems of the country. So I don't think Paul in any way is disabled from making that point because he chose not to vote for it."

Ryan's speech accepting the vice presidential nomination came under fire from some who said he made misleading or hypocritical statements. Many thought Ryan's criticism of the president on the Bowles-Simpson commission was audacious, because Ryan participated in the panel's year-long work but then voted against its final report.

McConnell argued at length that Obama did little to offer his own plan, like Ryan did years prior to the Bowles-Simpson commission -- or to cooperate with Republican attempts to reach a compromise.

"Divided government has frequently done very big things, and had an opportunity to last year. We gave him every chance to get out from under his desk and to do something big for the country," McConnell said of Obama.

He pointed to the super committee that followed the Bowles-Simpson commission, and to a proposal Republicans put forward that "offered [the Obama White House] a quarter trillion in new taxes on high income people, and they scoffed at him."

"They didn't want a fix," he said. "We stepped over all kinds of trip wires in order to try to get them to –- trip wires for us, things that we don't want to do -- to try to get them to deal with the big problem, which is making the entitlement programs fit the demographics of our country. And they didn't do it. So the president has not led. There's no question about that."

Some question how much McConnell truly wanted to work with Obama since he said in 2010 that "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

And Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt countered in an email that, "Senator McConnell has a PHD in revisionist history."

"The President put forward a balanced, 4 trillion deficit reduction package that adopted many of the elements of Simpson Bowles, but Congressional Republicans walked away from negotiations because they refused to ask the wealthiest for a dime," LaBolt said. "And by doing so, their approach was a wholesale rejection of what Simpson Bowles and every bipartisan commission has said is necessary to reduce the deficit in a serious way."

Also on The Huffington Post

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