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By Mark MaynardKentucky Today

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday in an interview with Kentucky Today that the recently passed tax reform bill was only the second biggest accomplishment of 2017.

He said the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, “cementing a right-of-center Supreme Court for a generation” and the naming of 12 new circuit judges — the most for a first-term president since 1891 — will have even greater overall benefit to the American people.

“Different people look at it different ways,” McConnell said. “I put the taxes a close second. The Supreme Court appointment — there’s only nine of them and this guy is 50 years old — is a long-term impact on the country.”

It was McConnell who fought diligently to keep President Obama from filling the vacant Supreme Court position during a presidential election year and during Obama’s last days in office. He fought off repeated challenges from Democrats, who wanted President Obama to be able to make the Supreme Court nomination before leaving office.

“I would put it only slightly ahead of the tax bill,” McConnell said. “Both of those are major issues as is, frankly, putting 12 new circuit judges in place in President Trump’s first year.”

The tax bill was the cherry on top for McConnell, who garnered support from all 52 Republicans to push the measure through. Critics have said it is a tax reform that benefits the wealthy and not the middle class, but McConnell said that’s simply not the case.

He gave examples. He said a family of four, earning $73,000 a year, would receive $2,000. “To a lot of people who make a lot of money, they would consider that not much,” he said. “But that’s a 58 percent reduction in their tax bill.”

A single parent with one child making $41,000 a year would receive $1,300, which calculates to a 73 percent tax reduction, he said.

“This is a bill oriented toward the middle class but also seeks to make American business competitive again,” McConnell said. “We’ve had highest corporate tax rate in the world for some time now and that that leads to offshoring of U.S. jobs. We’ve brought the corporate rate down to 21 percent from 35 percent. Critics said companies won’t spend it on employees. But look already what has happened with AT&T and others with bonuses. Companies do care about their workers.”

In addition to that, he said, they will be growing and expanding in the U.S. because they have less incentive to do it overseas with the new tax structure.

“We didn’t leave little businesses behind either,” he said. “They got significant tax relief as well. Why did we do this? We want to get the country growing again. We didn’t have one year of 3 percent growth in Obama’s eight years, not one. The average in the U.S. since World War II has been 3.2. The country has been significantly underperforming. The combination of tax reform and regularity changes that the administration has already been involved in will get America rolling again with more revenue for government, more jobs for our people and more hope for the future.”

There was a thin margin of error in the vote because “the Democrats decided they didn’t want to help us,” McConnell said. “In the end we got every single one of our 52. It was quite a challenge, but everybody felt it was important to the country to get this and they finally did it.”

McConnell included Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) as a yes vote even though he couldn’t be there because of his illness. “If he would have been here, he would have voted yes. So we had everybody.”

The tax overhaul was significant, the first in 31 years when it was done on a bipartisan basis which, McConnell said, made it easier then. “But the Democrats were not interested. They’re all dancing to the tune of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders so they didn’t participate. They all voted against it so they obviously want to have a debate about it next fall and we’re more than happy to have it.”

McConnell celebrated at the White House on Wednesday with President Trump, presenting him with a dark brown Louisville Slugger bat with Trump’s name burned into it. “We called it going to bat for the middle class,” McConnell said.

Trump, who at times has been negative toward McConnell on Twitter, congratulated him over the tax package, saying McConnell did a “fantastic job both strategically and politically on the passing in the Senate of the MASSIVE TAX CUT & Reform Bill. I could not have asked for a better or more talented partner.”

When asked to weigh in on next week’s Louisville-Kentucky basketball game and pick a winner, McConnell laughed. “Probably Kentucky,” he said. “I’m going to Jacksonville the next day for Louisville’s bowl game.”