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Buoyed by clear skies and cool, autumn-like weather, a boisterous crowd gathered at the Multi-County GOP rally in Pendleton Friday.
It was a rare event for this part of rural Kentucky — both of the state’s senators were on hand, stumping for one another and against President Barrack Obama and his policies.
U.S. Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul delivered speeches railing against the Affordable Care Act and what McConnell deemed a war on coal lead by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
They were joined by U.S. Representative Thomas Massie (R, KY-4) and Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture, James Comer.
Paul drew some of the biggest applause during his speech, particularly when he zeroed in on Obamacare.
“Obamacare is coming,” he told the audience. “I’m not sure if we’re going to be able to stop it. Thomas (Massie) is trying to stop it. I’m trying to stop it. Sen. McConnell is trying to stop it. We’re all trying to push back, we’re all trying to stop it. But they don’t think you’re smart enough to take care of yourselves, so they’re going to get you insurance. Everybody is going to have insurance.”
He went on to decry Obamacare, claiming that it will result in higher payments for insurance and a reduction in hours for part-time workers. He also claimed that “there may be people who already have insurance who are losing their insurance,” and that those with insurance will pay more for what they have.
Paul also poked at diagnosis codes, claiming that as a result of Obamacare, the list has grown from 18,000 codes to more than 144,000, and he claimed there are now codes for walking into lampposts and “312 new codes for injuries sustained from animals.”
The junior Senator drew laughter and applause from the audience, too, when he hit upon the sequester. “They say we can’t cut, they say no way, we’ve got to cut to the bone, there’s nothing nothing left to cut,” he said. “The president says if this sequester goes through, it’ll be terrible, the airplanes will crash into each other, we’ll have to fire the air traffic controllers. Your meat will be rancid because we’ll have to fire the meat inspectors, and I’m like, really? The first people you’re going to fire from government are the air traffic controllers? What kind of moron would fire the air traffic controllers.
“We’re going to fire the meat inspectors? Who would do that?”
The crowd cheered still louder when Paul talked about ways to save $6 billion per year. “You can save $6 billion a year by simply not rehiring people who retire,” he said. “That many people retire from the federal government ever year, why don’t we downsize a bit. We’re asked to downsize, why doesn’t the federal government downsize?”
Paul went on to point out examples of what he considered to be waste in government, including a National Science Foundation grant involving a robotic squirrel, a project to develop a menu for Mars colonization, and $8 million in Homeland Security expenditures in Fargo, N.D.
“You know, if the terrorists get to Fargo, we might as well surrender,” Paul quipped.
Perhaps Paul’s biggest applause came when he discussed helping the less fortunate, and hinted at abuse of social welfare programs.
“If you want to help people, let’s help those who can’t help themselves,” he said. “But if you look like me, and you hop out of your truck and you put your handicap sticker up, you’re not the one we ought to be helping.
“We can help, we’ve got enough money, but the money ought to be directed at those who can’t help themselves. So when you send money to able-bodied people… (and) the guy who is missing two legs who is on dialysis, who can’t afford care for himself and whose medicines cost $3,000 a month doesn’t get any help because you’re helping the able-bodied person.
“We have to get beyond this. No one should receive a check who is able-bodied who is not working. They should have to work for every penny they get.”
Paul introduced McConnell, who started his remarks by looking at what he said could become Kentucky’s biggest moment: the possibility of having not just the Senate Majority Leader, but the White House — both concepts assuming Republican control of the Senate in 2014, and a Republican presidency starting in 2017.
That, he said, is something the state has never been in a position to have, and used that notion to segway into the 2014 Senate race.
McConnell labeled the 2014 race as one not just about representation in the senate, but about who will run the Senate, “Harry Reid from Nevada who thinks coal makes you sick, or the guy you’re looking at? We want a Kentuckian to lead the United States Senate.”
Without naming the presumed Democratic candidate, Allison Lundergan-Grimes, McConnell asserted that Lundergan-Grimes would “dodge and weave and act like she’s certainly not really pro-Obama,” and that the 2014 race “is going to be a referendum on whether we approve of the policies of Barack Obama, and we do not, do we.”
He went on to say that Obama’s policies “have been particularly egregious” in two areas — coal and health care.
Without specifying exactly what the ‘war on coal’ is, McConnell said it was being lead by Reid, restating the idea that Reid “said coal makes you sick.”
“A war on coal, my friends, is a war on all of Kentucky, because our great competitive advantage in trying to get business in our state is our low utility rates,” McConnell said. “Some years, we’ve had the lowest utility rates in the whole country.”
McConnell decried Obamacare as “the biggest step in the direction of Europeanizing our country, making us look like France or Greece,” and said the law must be stopped — drawing perhaps the biggest applause of the night.
His speech, the shortest of the night at about 10 minutes, picked at small aspects of the law, wound back to the 2014 election.
“Let’s take it one election at a time,” he said. “First one’s in 2014. I’ll be a big target… Every crazy liberal in the country that’s got an ounce, a bit of money to spare will be sending it to my opponent.
“This will be the biggest race we’ve ever had in our state. But I’ll tell you this, I’m proud of my enemies, and I look forward to taking them down one more time.”
Massie started the speeches off in a speech that covered everything from Obamacare to immigration and from Syria to a Colorado special election last week.
“You know, some people say… that Republicans should play defense,” he said. “We only have, control one-half of one-third of government right now. I disagree. You sent me to Washington to go on the defense, and let me tell you, the president is reeling right now. Democrats are reeling. They’re on their heels.”
The first-term representative said even Democrats are losing faith in the president. “You know why we didn’t vote on Syria,” he asked the crowd. “It’s because the vote to go to war in Syria wouldn’t have gotten 50 votes in the House of Representatives. His whole Democratic caucus was against him on that.”
Regarding Obamacare, Massie said he was willing to fund everything else in government, including things he disagreed with — like the NSA — if he could vote to defund Obamacare.
“I think maybe we should have two votes. Let’s vote to fund everything but Obamacare, and then let’s vote to fund Obamacare,” he said.
But for the most part, his comments on the health care law were echoed later by Paul and McConnell.
Comer discussed the growth the Republican party in Kentucky has experienced, something he credited to good leadership within the party.
“Since I’ve been Commissioner of Agriculture for the past year and a half, we’ve had a lot of big goals… “ he told the crowd, adding that refocusing rural economic development efforts around agriculture would “enhance and revitalize” rural communities.
In introducing Paul, Comer hinted at a potential White House bid, referring to him as “the next President of the United States.”