TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

State News

May 27, 2014

Paul convinced party will be united with McConnell

CORBIN — By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service

It was kind of like that old television commercial, only this time it seemed to be “If Rand Paul says it’s so, it must be so.”

What he said is that he and his U.S. Senate colleague Mitch McConnell “are excited to have a Republican Party all pulled together for our nominee.”

That nominee, of course, is McConnell, who crushed Matt Bevin in Tuesday’s primary which set McConnell against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in this fall’s general election.

Problem is, Bevin hasn’t yet endorsed McConnell. McConnell said he and Bevin haven’t spoken since Tuesday night when Bevin said the country’s solutions must come from the “ranks of the Republican Party” and that he could never support Grimes’ platform. But he stopped short of endorsing McConnell.

But the five-term incumbent, who hopes to see the GOP take control of the Senate and fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming Majority Leader, pointed out that outside tea party groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund, the Madison Project, and Eric Ericson of RedState have endorsed him since Tuesday.

Paul said he will campaign for McConnell and vouched for McConnell’s tea party-like, conservative bona fides. Paul said, as someone who came out of the tea party movement, “I’m very concerned about the debt; I’m very concerned about big government.”

“But I think the misnomer is that somehow Sen. McConnell isn’t,” Paul continued. Bevin and other tea party voices have accused McConnell of not being conservative enough and too willingly to cut deals with President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats.

But Paul and McConnell made it abundantly clear they have no use for Obama, suggesting Obama is out to get Kentucky.

“We see this is almost as a patriotic fervor,” Paul said. “We think Kentucky almost needs to be defended against the policies of President Obama and we think the only way that Kentucky can have a fighting chance is to have someone who will stand up to President Obama.”

Both McConnell and Paul repeated the line that Obama is behind a “war on coal,” causing in Paul’s words “a veritable depression” in eastern Kentucky. Both said regardless of how many times she declares her support for coal, Grimes will support the agenda of Obama and Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid.

McConnell wants the race to be about Obama who is unpopular in Kentucky while Grimes wants it to be about McConnell who after five-terms is hoping voters haven’t grown tired of him.

Grimes “would vote to make Harry Reid, who said coal makes us sick, the Majority Leader and (Reid) would proceed to enact the Obama agenda: higher taxes, more regulations and fewer coal miner jobs,” McConnell said.

He and Paul said they have offered legislation to protect coal jobs but Reid won’t allow votes on the bills. McConnell offered the usual Republican remedies for employment, lower taxes and less regulation and repeal of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.

Grimes has made jobs a key plank in her platform (though she hasn’t explained how to pay for it) along with calling for an increase in the minimum wage, something McConnell has opposed, calling it a “job-killer.” Asked if he thought the minimum wage is unconstitutional, McConnell said, no, “it’s just not advisable in the current environment.” But McConnell may be subtly shifting on the issue, too.

“There may be times when a minimum wage increase may be appropriate,” McConnell said, but not during a “jobless recovery.”

He also called again for repeal of Obamacare, which he called “the worst piece of legislation in 50 years.” He was asked if he’d propose a way to continue coverage for the 415,000 Kentuckians who have signed up under the law.

McConnell said he would substitute the ability to purchase insurance across state lines; allow small business to form insurance purchasing pools; and would enact medical malpractice reform. He didn’t say what he’d do about the 415,000.

Then he was asked if he’d dismantle the health exchanges like Kentucky’s Kynect on which people can now purchase private insurance plans.

The law “is a huge mistake,” McConnell said. “You know, I think the people of this state are entitled to know how you feel about it. My opponent is trying to dodge that question.”

Pressed again on Kynect by the same reporter, McConnell responded: “I think that’s unconnected to my comments about the overall question.”

Grimes has repeatedly said she would like to change some aspects of the law such as a mandate on businesses but would not repeal it.

McConnell and Paul said they are pleased the federal Department of Drug Enforcement released a shipment of hemp seeds for Kentucky pilot projects. Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Paul made the legalization of industrial hemp a priority in last year’s General Assembly.

But Paul said McConnell’s role in inserting permission to plant pilot crops of the plant which is related to marijuana was key to the success of the effort.

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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