Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has turned down an invitation from President Barack Obama to attend a celebration of the University of Kentucky’s NCAA basketball championship at the White House Friday.
Obama will congratulate the team for its April victory over the University of Kansas. He invited McConnell to join him, but the Minority Leader will be in Kentucky participating in festivities being held ahead of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, a McConnell aide told The Hill
Some Kentucky Republicans are suspicious whether Obama really wanted McConnell to show up. That’s because the gathering was scheduled for a day that Congress is in recess and a day ahead of the Derby.
“Scheduling the UK championship visit to the White House when Congress is out of session could be confused for a lack of courtesy, but scheduling it on the eve of the Kentucky Derby seems like an obvious slight to the entire Kentucky delegation,” a Kentucky GOP operative told The Hill.
McConnell and Obama have a history of blowing off each other’s invitations. In January 2011, McConnell declined an invitation to attend a state dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao. And then in June, the president spiked an invitation from McConnell in June to meet with Republican congressional leaders to discuss lifting the debt ceiling.
In any case, McConnell is more a fan of the University of Louisville, which lost to Kentucky in the NCAA semifinals, than of the University of Kentucky, a source close to McConnell told The Hill. But McConnell himself declined to express a preference between the two before they met in the tournament, noting he attended both of them — Louisville as an undergraduate, and Kentucky as a law student.
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