Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said Tuesday he and former President Barack Obama agreed on something: Both descendants of slaveholders, they also both opposed the notion of reparations.
NBC News reported Monday night that McConnell's great-great grandfathers owned 14 slaves, with the angle that this brought the "reparations issue close to home."
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A reporter asked McConnell if he was aware of that family history and if it had changed his position on the issue. McConnell smiled as he listened to the question.
"You know, I find myself once again in the same position as President Obama," he said. "We both oppose reparations, and we both are the descendants of slaveholders."
The Guardian reported in 2007 that Obama, whose mother was white, had ancestors on her side who owned slaves.
Although Obama and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party's last two presidential candidates, opposed reparations, the policy has gotten support or at least consideration from some leading 2020 Democratic candidates. However, how to implement such a policy and what exactly it would entail varies from candidate to candidate, and reparations are broadly unpopular with the public.
McConnell said last month that he didn't think "reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none of us currently living are responsible is a good idea."
"We’ve tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We’ve elected an African American president," he said. "I think we’re always a work in progress in this country, but no one currently alive was responsible for that, and I don’t think we should be trying to figure out how to compensate for it."
NBC reported the story the night before Democrat Amy McGrath announced on MSNBC, NBC's liberal cable news arm, that she was running to challenge McConnell in the 2020 U.S. Senate race.
McConnell told reporters that, unlike many of his colleagues, he enjoyed campaigning and looked forward to outlining his differences with McGrath to Kentucky voters.