Friday, May 23, 2014

McConnell presses Grimes to say how she feels about Obmacare but won't bite on questions about Kynect

At his first post-primary press conference, Sen. Mitch McConnell pressed Alison Lundergan Grimes to clarify her position on the federal health-care reform law but wouldn't say whether his plan to "start over" on the issue would include shutting down the state's successful health-insurance exchange.

"She's been dodging it for a year," McConnell said Friday. "She's been in this race for a year. It's time for her to answer the question, "How do you feel about it?" Wednesday, Grimes twice refused to say how she would have voted on the 2010 law if she had been a senator.

McConnell speaks at half-hour press conference.
(Associated Press photo by Timothy D. Easley)
The topic arose when McConnell was asked to reply to Democratic assertions that his pledge to "pull it out root and branch" would end the law's insurance coverage for 415,000 Kentuckians through the state exchange.

The senator didn't answer directly. "This is another good reason why the two of us ought to have a real debate," he said, recalling his post-primary proposal for three Lincoln-Douglas-style debates by the middle of September.

Asked if he would dismantle the state exchanges created under the law, McConnell said he would have created a national market -- "tear down the walls, the 50 separate silos in which health insurance is sold" -- passed medical-malpractice reform, and allowed small businesses to "band together in this international [sic] market."

Asked again, specifically, if he would shut down Kentucky's exchange, which is branded as Kynect, he said "I think that's unconnected to my comments about the overall question here."

While polls have shown the law to be unpopular in Kentucky, a small plurality of voters in a recent poll had a favorable opinion of Kynect. Last fall, the Kentucky Health Issues Poll found that people who weren't sure how the law would affect them and their families had an unfavorable opinion of it, while those who said they did know how it would affect them had a favorable opinion.

In his overall comments about the law, McConnell said a Congressional Budget Office study has predicted that full implementation of the law would still leave 30 million Americans uninsured, covering only 10 million. "What is the cost-benefit ratio of this kind of destruction, this kind of impact, on 16 percent of the economy?" he asked. "The people of this state are entitled to know the answer to the question, 'How do you feel about it?' and I think my opponent has tried to dodge that question."

Asked if repealing the law would be his top priority as majority leader if Republicans take control of the Senate, he said he wasn't ready to say because he's not in the majority yet, "but I think it's reasonable to assume that would be a high priority for us." He noted that Obama will be president until January 2017, an implicit acknowledgement that Obama would veto any repeal and two-thirds votes of the House and Senate would be required to override him.

Other topics

Asked if he had reached out to defeated primary foe Matt Bevin since they talked Tuesday night, McConnell said he had not, but said he wasn't worried about unifying the party. He noted a November 2010 exit poll that showed 91 percent of Republicans voted for Rand Paul after a divisive primary.

However, that survey polled only people who voted. Sen. Rand Paul, asked why a tea-party supporter shouldn't stay home from the polls this fall, replied, "I think the people in the tea party will come out when they realize what a disaster it would be to have Ms. Grimes." Earlier, he said, "I think the party will pull together very quickly."

Grimes is trying to get the votes of Bevin supporters with an "open letter" to them. Asked what he thought of that, McConnell said, "I hope she'll spend all of her time trying to get Republicans to vote for her."

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