TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Local News

August 24, 2012

Politicians speak their minds at state fair

CORBIN — By RONNIE ELLIS / CNHI News Service

Politicians attending the annual Kentucky Farm Bureau Country Ham Breakfast at the state fair each year are confronted with a gauntlet of reporters sticking tape recorders and microphones in front of them.

Here are some capsules of comments by some of those politicians on Thursday.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul stopped short of calling on Missouri Rep. Todd Akin to withdraw from his U.S. Senate race against incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, who was considered the most vulnerable incumbent Democrat seeking re-election and a key to Republican hopes to take over the Senate.

That was until Akin told a St. Louis television interviewer asked him about his support for legislation prohibiting abortion, even in the case of rape.

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” Akin answered.

That prompted Republicans across the country, including Kentucky’s other Republican senator, Mitch McConnell, to call on Akin to step aside. So far, Akin has vowed to stay in the race and Democrats are tying Republican candidates in other states to Akin in the same way Republicans try to tie their opponents to President Barack Obama.

“I think his comments were ill-founded and don’t make a lot of sense,” Paul said as he left the breakfast Thursday. “But I think he’s got to make up his mind for himself.”

McConnell began his remarks to the 1,600 at the breakfast by praising Paul – something he did earlier this week at a tea party rally in Frankfort. McConnell endorsed Trey Grayson against Paul in the 2010 primary won by Paul. Since then he’s seldom passed up an opportunity to praise Paul.

“Let me start by acknowledging my friend and colleague Rand Paul,” McConnell began Thursday. “He’s doing a great job representing our commonwealth in the senate.”

McConnell made the most political of the speeches Thursday, saying now is “a time of serious trouble for our country.” He said a lower estate tax expires at the end of the year and suggested some might want to pass on estates to children before then.

“I want to remind you that you don’t have to die to take advantage of the exemption,” McConnell told the room full of farmers. “You can’t use it twice, but you don’t have to die to take advantage of it.”

He said federal regulators’ view is that “If you’re making a profit, you’re up to no good. That’s the level of absurdity this administration is willing to go to meddle in your business. But we’ve got an opportunity this fall to decide which direction we want to take.”

One of Kentucky’s Democratic Congressmen, John Yarmuth of Louisville, however, said he’s confident Obama will win re-election. Yarmuth is one of the few elected Democrats in Kentucky who openly supports Obama. He represents the state’s most urban district, one which Obama carried in 2008.

Yarmuth said the Electoral College math favors Obama, that the president leads in enough states that Republicans would have to carry nearly all of the swing states. And he thinks the addition of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, who has championed major changes in social security and Medicare, weakens Republican Mitt Romney in key states like Florida which has a large senior population and 29 electoral votes.

Nearby Andy Barr, the Republican who lost by a razor thin margin to Kentucky’s other Democratic House member, Ben Chandler, in 2008 and is challenging the Versailles Democrat again, defended Ryan’s budget and proposals for Medicare.

He criticized Obama for reductions of $716 billion in Medicare funding, saying the president “raided Medicare to pay for his Obamacare.”

More than two-thirds of the cuts, however, are used to reduce payments to private insurance companies that offer Medicare supplements and then are used to pay for such things as preventive procedures for Medicare patients. The other cuts are to hospital reimbursements, but the hospital associations agreed to those in exchange for the additional paying patients they expect under the Affordable Care Act which extends coverage to everyone.

And Ryan’s budget which passed the Republican House earlier this year includes the identical $716 billion in cuts.

“But he puts those cuts back into Medicare,” said Barr. He said the real issue in the race is jobs, but then said Obamacare is a “job-killing piece of legislation which will hurt smaller rural hospitals.”

Chandler voted against the Affordable Care Act, saying at the time he feared it would force some small rural hospitals out of business.

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort

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