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Nancy Pelosi calls Mitch McConnell 'Moscow Mitch' for blocking legislation

CNN logo CNN 8/14/2019 By Kate Sullivan, Ashley Killough and Clare Foran, CNN
a person posing for the camera: U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi departs her weekly press conference on January 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images) © Win McNamee/Getty Images U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi departs her weekly press conference on January 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took a jab at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Wednesday, calling him "Moscow Mitch" -- a cutting nickname that recently prompted the Republican leader to take to the Senate floor to decry "modern-day McCarthyism."

"Moscow Mitch says that he is the 'Grim Reaper.' Imagine describing yourself as the 'Grim Reaper' -- that he's going to bury all this legislation," Pelosi said at an event in Illinois on Wednesday. The California Democrat added the legislation her chamber has passed is "live and well in the general public."

In July, Republicans in the Senate blocked the advancement of election security legislation hours after former special counsel Robert Mueller testified before Congress warning of Russian election interference. MSNBC host Joe Scarborough blasted McConnell's block of the legislation, dubbing him "Moscow Mitch," and Washington Post opinion columnist Dana Milbank called him a "Russian asset."

The comments drew a fiery McConnell to the Senate floor, saying, in part, "I don't normally take the time to respond to critics in the media when they have no clue what they're talking about. But this modern-day McCarthyism is toxic and damaging because of the way it warps our entire public discourse."

McConnell has previously said he believes strongly that elections should be primarily controlled by state and local authorities and not managed by Washington. He argues the federal government has already responded to the problems raised from the 2016 campaign and more does not need to be done at this time.

A spokesman for McConnell, David Popp, pointed to the Senate leader's speech when asked by CNN Wednesday about Pelosi's calling McConnell "Moscow Mitch."

Popp highlighted the following passage from McConnell's floor speech: "Now here we are in 2019. Again, (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and the Russians seek to provoke fear and division in our country. To undermine faith in our institutions. To exacerbate our political differences until we tear ourselves apart. And, once again, it seems there are some who blindly take the bait. American pundits calling an American official treasonous because of a policy disagreement. If anything is an asset to the Russians, it is disgusting behavior like that."

McConnell faces new questions after The Washington Post reported Wednesday about how one Russian company with ties to the Kremlin benefited from the lifting of economic sanctions, which McConnell aided by preventing from passing congressional efforts to keep the sanctions in place. That company then made a major investment in a project in McConnell's home state of Kentucky. Popp told the Post that McConnell "was not aware of any potential Russian investor before the vote."

At the Wednesday event hosted by the Illinois Democratic County Chairs' Association, Pelosi touted legislation passed by her chamber that the Senate has not taken up, including legislation raising the minimum wage, addressing the climate crisis, increasing protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, strengthening election security and lowering the cost of prescription drugs.

McConnell in April referred to himself as the "Grim Reaper," vowing to kill what he called socialist legislation, including the Green New Deal and "Medicare For All" measures. "None of that stuff is going to pass. None of it," the Kentucky Republican said at an event in his home state at the time.

Pelosi on Wednesday urged the Senate to pass a pair of bills approved by the House this year aimed at strengthening gun background checks in the wake of two deadly mass shootings that killed more than 30 people in Texas and Ohio earlier this month.

"We've been waiting since February, and now public sentiment must weigh in to save lives, to pass our bill," Pelosi said.

McConnell recently told a Kentucky radio station the Senate will put background check legislation and "red flag" laws "front and center" when Congress reconvenes after its summer recess. McConnell made no commitments about what would come to the Senate floor.

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