WASHINGTON -- Repealing Obamacare has been the focus of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's reelection campaign, though he has been coy about what exactly would happen to the thousands of people who have signed up for Kentucky's successful state health care exchange, KYnect. On Friday, the Kentucky Republican offered a curious response, telling reporters the two issues are "unconnected."
McConnell's comments were made during a press conference in Louisville, where he was joined by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). According to Joe Sonka, a news editor at Kentucky's LEO Weekly, reporters grilled the minority leader on what Obamacare repeal would mean for the 413,000 Kentuckians who have signed up for coverage under the state exchange.
McConnell twice tried to dodge the question, first by offering his standard talking points on how Obamacare was a premium-hiking job killer, and then by questioning the stance of his Democratic opponent, Kentucky State Secretary Alison Lundergan Grimes.
"I think my opponent is trying to dodge that question. She's been dodging it for a year," McConnell said. "It's time for her to answer the question, how do you feel about it?"
A reporter pointed out that McConnell hadn't answered the question put to him. The reporter asked if KYnect should be dismantled.
"I think that's unconnected to my comments about the overall question here," McConnell responded.
Despite McConnell's assertion, the two issues are in fact directly connected, in that KYnect only exists because of the Affordable Care Act. Kentucky was one of 13 states that set up its own exchange with support from the federal government. But McConnell's agenda as minority leader has focused in large part on rallying his party around Obamacare repeal, to the point where dismantling the health care law has emerged as the central promise of his reelection campaign.
Much of McConnell's strategy has entailed ignoring the success of the state exchange, and Friday's comments were either a rare misstep, or a hint that the minority leader may try to soften his tone on Obamacare repeal after surviving a primary challenge from CEO Matt Bevin earlier this week. Grimes has not been forthcoming in her position on the health care law, but she cited the Kentucky enrollment as a reason she wouldn't repeal it.
"I am not and will not be for taking away insurance that 400,000 Kentuckians just recently got access to," Grimes told the Associated Press.