Sen. Mitch McConnell conducted a 24-minute press conference in Louisville today, with Rand Paul at his side, taking a wide range of questions from reporters — even directly answering a couple of them.
McConnell took three questions on the Affordable Care Act and how its repeal would affect the 413,000 Kentuckians who now have insurance through the state exchange, Kynect. The first question asked how he would respond to those who say repeal would take away the healthcare of 413,000 Kentuckians, to which McConnell launched into his standard answer that Obamacare was raising premiums, raising deductibles, and killing jobs, concluding, “It was a big mistake, we ought to pull it out root and branch and start over.”
WHAS’ Joe Arnold followed up that answer by asking, “But if you repeal it, won’t all of the state exchanges be dismantled? How does that work?” McConnell then launched into his standard “solution” of sorts, calling for an “international market” of insurance companies that aren’t limited by state lines, in addition to “malpractice reform.”
“The CBO … said that if Obamacare kicks in fully, it goes all the way into effect, we’re still going to have 30 million uninsured,” said McConnell. “We had 40 (million) when we started. What is the cost benefit ratio of this kind of destruction, it’s kind of impact, on our…on 16 percent of the economy to have such a marginal reduction at the end of the day? It’s a huge mistake. And I think people of this state are entitled to know the answer to the question: How do you feel about it? And I think my opponent is trying to dodge that question. She’s been dodging it for a year. It’s time for her to answer the question, how do you feel about it?
I’ll interuprt here to cite the CBO report he’s talking about to show how misleading this argument is. According to the CBO, by 2024 the number of uninsured will, in fact, be 31 million people, but without the ACA there would have been 56 million people uninsured. This number takes into account the undocumented immigrants who can’t get insurance because of the lack of immigration reform, and the people who can’t get Medicaid in states that opted out of the Medicaid expansion. That means that when the ACA “kicks in fully” and is “all the way into effect,” 26 million will have gained access to healthcare coverage because of it. McConnell calls 26 million people gaining such coverage a “marginal reduction” of the uninsured, which I assume would include not just the 413,000 Kentuckians who now have coverage because of it, but the grand total of 640,000 who might gain coverage within the next few years.
Oh, and what does the CBO also estimate that repealing the ACA would do to our deficit? Here’s what the CBO has to say:
What Is the Impact of Repealing the ACA on the Federal Budget?
Assuming that H.R. 6079 is enacted near the beginning of fiscal year 2013, CBO and JCT estimate that, on balance, the direct spending and revenue effects of enacting that legislation would cause a net increase in federal budget deficits of $109 billion over the 2013–2022 period. Specifically, we estimate that H.R. 6079 would reduce direct spending by $890 billion and reduce revenues by $1 trillion between 2013 and 2022, thus adding $109 billion to federal budget deficits over that period.
No world on if McConnell thinks the $109 billion that Obamacare saves through 2022 is also a “marginal reduction” of the federal deficit.
Now back to the press conference:
Noting that McConnell didn’t answer his question — nor the one before it, though McConnell was accusing Alison Lundergan Grimes of avoiding ACA questions — Arnold followed up, asking “Should Kynect be dismantled?” McConnell gave this jaw-dropping one-sentence reply: “I think that’s unconnected to my comments about the overall question here.”
Let’s get something straight here: Kynect could not have existed without the Affordable Care Act, and it would cease to exist if the Affordable Care Act ceased to exist. There would be no people eligible for the expanded Medicaid — the large majority of those who signed up through Kynect — and there would be no exchange for people to sign up for affordable private insurance with federal subsidies. Saying that Kynect is unconnected with the ACA or its repeal is just mind-numbingly false. The ACA and Kynect are one in the same.
I though it was supposed to be Grimes running scared from Obamacare because it was so unpopular, not Mitch running away from Obamacare exchange criticism because the Obamacare exchange is so popular? Time to tear up and throw away your Beltway conventional wisdom script, I guess.
Moving on to other questions, McConnell was asked whether the federal minimum wage is unconstitutional, replying, “No, not unconstitutional, just not advisable in the current environment.” McConnell then cited the CBO study saying this increase could decrease employment in the short term by 500,000 to one million, saying “There may be times when a minimum wage increase is appropriate, in my view, there may be times for that. But certainly not at this point, when you’re going to put, at a minimum, 17,000 more Kentuckians out of work.”
Considering Mitch McConnell has also been a big supporter of NSA domestic spying programs and the Patriot Act — and Rand Paul was standing next to him, who is suing the Obama administration over these NSA programs — I asked Mitch this question: “Do you think that the NSA domestic spying programs on emails and phone records is unconstitutional, and do you think the NSA should be scaled back?” Rand asked if I was asking him, and I clarified that I already knew his position, I was asking McConnell. However, McConnell declined to even attempt to answer the question, leaving Paul to give his standard answer as to why they are unconstitutional. Perhaps McConnell will get the nerve to answer that at some point during the campaign…
Though I was going to ask the exact question if I was able to get it in, C-J reporter Dr. Joe Gerth beat me to it and asked McConenll if coal actually does make people sick:
Gerth: “You’ve been pretty critical of Sen. Reid for his “coal makes us sick” comment. But isn’t there plenty of evidence that coal-fired emissions cause breathing problems, to black lung disease, that coal does in fact, in some ways, cause people to become ill?”
McConnell: “We’re burning coal cleaner and cleaner and cleaner. There’s really a war on fossil fuel across the board by these guys. And it’s important to also recognize that 40% of our electricity in America comes from coal-fired generation, 90% in Kentucky. They have no plans to replace it. We’re looking at potential brown outs in the not too distant future if they continue down this path. So we all want a cleaner environment. I think America has made incredible strides toward a cleaner environment in a variety of different ways over the years. But this is an economic disaster for us and a power supply disaster for a lot of the rest of the country.”
Yes, Sen. McConnell, our environment has made great strides over the years, and we are burning coal much cleaner. Do you know why? EPA mandates and regulations that have forces coal-burning utilities to burn coal cleaner. At least it’s good to know that McConnell thinks the EPA is good for something. Maybe at some point in the campaign he’ll even tell us if arsenic, mercury, selenium, lead and sulfur dioxide make people sick.
Remember, McConnell is the same guy who ridicules Grimes for not answering questions. Get ready for more of this over the next six months.