"The website can continue, but in my view the best interests of the country would be achieved by pulling out Obamacare root and branch," McConnell said.
Pressed repeatedly to say whether he was endorsing the continuation of the state exchange, McConnell said, "Yeah, I think it's fine to have a website."
He can't have it both ways. Uprooting Obamacare upends Kynect. The Kentucky exchange was created with $252 million in federal grants provided through Obamacare. A critical aspect of the Affordable Care Act—and, by extension, the Kentucky plan—is the requirement that Kentucky residents secure health insurance. A full repeal of Obamacare would eliminate the grants, place a burden on Kentucky to finance the exchange (read: higher taxes), and scuttle the mandate.
As Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post wrote in his fact-check column, Kentucky tried insurance reform without a mandate in the 1990s and found it to be a disaster.
"The history of individual state exchanges shows it is not credible for McConnell to suggest that the state exchange would survive without the broad health-care system constructed by the Affordable Care Act, such as an individual mandate and subsidies to buy insurance," Kessler wrote in May. "Given the popularity of the state exchange, McConnell appears to want to offer out hope it would continue even in the unlikely case the law was actually repealed. That's likely not a tenable position, and we will pay close attention to McConnell's phrasing on this issue in the future. The senator is clearly trying to straddle a political fence; when doing so, it's easy to lose your balance."
McConnell is peddling a distinction with little difference. He's playing with the health of 500,000 Kentuckians. He's misleading conservatives who don't think Obamacare is "fine." He's a hypocrite.
In her ham-handed attempt to duck Obama, Grimes is showing a lack of courage, conviction and political smarts. "I think she disqualified herself," my friend Chuck Todd said. Tough analysis. If running away from Obama is disqualifying, playing both sides of the fence on Obamacare might be worthy of retirement.
Monday was a bad day for all but the most masochistic voters. In Arkansas, an ambitious, underachieving first-term House member reached for the Senate by linking Democratic incumbent Mark Pryor to Obama. "A vote for Mark Pryor is a vote for more of Barack Obama's policies," Tom Cotton said. It was an essentially accurate quote, but Pryor pounced with a charge that cast Cotton as an example of what's wrong with modern politics.
"He hasn't passed anything since he's been in the House," Pryor said. "Even though he was there for one month, and he ran a poll on the Senate race—didn't even know where the bathrooms were, but nonetheless now thinks he's entitled to be in the Senate.... Congressman, you don't have the reputation, ability, or the desire to walk across the aisle to get things done in Washington."