McConnell, Paul Share Spotlight At Tea Party Rally

Aug 21, 2012

FRANKFORT, Ky.  -- U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell continued his assault on federal health care reforms Tuesday, promising again to push to repeal them if he becomes majority leader next year.

McConnell and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul made a joint appearance at a boisterous tea party rally that drew some 400 people to the state Capitol in Frankfort.

"We can't let this stand, and if I'm setting the agenda next January instead of Harry Reid, the repeal of Obamacare will be Job 1," McConnell said, drawing cheers from Kentucky's tea party faithful.

The rally was significant in that Paul stood before tea party groups from across Kentucky to herald McConnell as the GOP's champion against the Affordable Care Act, describing him as the most vocal opponent of the reforms in the Senate. McConnell received applause throughout his speech from a group that he hopes will support him for re-election in 2014.

McConnell drew loud cheers when he began his speech by praising Paul as "bright, capable, effective, an extraordinary new senator from Kentucky and my teammate."

McConnell and Paul have been staunch critics of the federal health care reforms that they refer to as "Obamacare." Paul had been sharply criticized for saying the reforms were unconstitutional even after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld them in June.

"Even my wife said to me, `please can't you count to 10 before you respond,'" Paul said. "But you know what, I've had time to count to 10 and I still think the whole damn thing is unconstitutional."

Paul referred to the health care reforms as "a house of cards" that takes money from Medicare to give to "Obamacare." McConnell repeated his often used phrase that the Affordable Care Act "is the single worst piece of legislation that's been passed in America in modern times."

The law will require nearly all Americans to purchase insurance beginning in 2014, a so-called individual mandate that Republicans lament. The law's constitutionality was upheld in a 5-4 Supreme Court opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts.

McConnell also reiterated his displeasure with the Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday.

"The Supreme Court having let us down, there's one last chance. It's called the ballot box. And this November, we need to make Barack Obama a one term president and change the government. So it's up to us, because in our country, in the end, the people decide."

Whitley County tea party activist Angie Ballou said the rally defied the contention of Democratic leaders that the tea party has waned.

Ballou said the enthusiastic crowd gathered at the Capitol shows that the tea party remains a force in Kentucky and across the country.

"It's alive," she said. "And it's getting stronger."

Sprinkled among the hundreds of tea party activists were several anti-tea party protesters who support the health care reforms and who frown on McConnell's opposition.

"The man does nothing for his people," said Genie Mixson, a retiree from Louisville. "He turned his back on the people who voted him into office. I don't know who he works for, but it's not the people of Kentucky."