11:47am

Mon May 16, 2011
All Politics are Local

McConnell-Paul Gulf Growing

While media outlets are focused on U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s latest gaffe, few noticed he was passed over for a coveted committee slot by fellow Kentucky Republican and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who selected a junior colleague instead.

The decision by McConnell marks a widening rift between the commonwealth’s two Senators and another diss to the Tea Party caucus after his decision to pass over U.S Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who was seeking an appointment to the finance committee.

From The Hill:

Paul’s spokeswoman Moira Bagley said her boss asked for a seat on the Budget Committee at the beginning of the year. She declined, however, to comment about whether he reiterated his interest after Ensign revealed his plans to step down.

The Senate aide familiar with the behind the scenes jockeying said Paul did indeed make that request.

A second Senate aide questioned the decision: “I don’t know why he’d skip Rand Paul, I don’t know anyone better to have on the Budget Committee than Rand Paul.”

Local political observers know this stems from Paul’s thumping of McConnell’s protegee—former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson—in the 2010 GOP primary, but the rivalry has continued since Paul took office in January.

And at some points the divide seems downright petty.

From The Hill:

Paul hasn’t had the warmest friendship with McConnell since coming to Washington. Paul surprised colleagues by criticizing former Kentucky Sen. Henry Clay, one of McConnell’s role models, during his maiden Senate floor speech.

“Henry Clay’s life story is, at best, a mixed message,” Paul said. “Henry Clay’s great compromise was over slavery. One could argue that he rose above sectional strife to carve out compromise after compromise trying to ward off civil war.

“Or one could argue that his compromises were morally wrong and may have even encouraged war, that his compromises meant the acceptance during his 50 years of public life of not only slavery, but the slave trade itself,” he said.

McConnell walked off the floor in the middle of that speech by Paul. An aide later said he had to attend a previously scheduled meeting.