McConnell responds to Grimes' ad on Medicare with one of his own

syoungman@herald-leader.comJuly 9, 2014 

Alison Lundergan Grimes and Sen. Mitch McConnell

About 24 hours after Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes unveiled her first attack ad against U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the senator fired back with his own spot that rips Grimes' ad as "shaky" and "laughable."

McConnell's latest television ad relies in part on an analysis of Grimes' ad by the Associated Press, which said the spot made "shaky claims" about Medicare.

McConnell sought to use the misstep to further his strategic goal of tying Grimes to President Barack Obama, who made similar claims about Medicare in his 2012 re-election bid.

"As Barack Obama's Kentucky candidate, Alison Grimes repeats the same falsehoods Obama does," the narrator says.

[Related story: McConnell agrees to attend Kentucky Farm Bureau candidate forum]

Grimes' ad featured her sitting beside retired coal miner Don Disney, who asked McConnell why he voted to raise his Medicare costs by $6,000.

The problems for Grimes, as the AP stated, is that "McConnell cast no such vote."

At issue is U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's 2011 budget proposal, which would have privatized Medicare for future seniors. McConnell did vote in favor of the Senate considering Ryan's Medicare plan, but it would not have directly affected Disney. Instead, the bill stated that "current Medicare benefits are preserved for those in and near retirement."

The Grimes camp disputed that point Tuesday afternoon, citing studies that said out-of-pocket expenses for current Medicare recipients might rise under the Paul proposal as younger, healthier recipients abandon the plan for a private option.

In its return volley, the McConnell ad also makes questionable claims.

"Grimes supports Obamacare, which cuts $700 billion from seniors' Medicare," the ad says before declaring that "Obama and Grimes will pay for Obamacare on the backs of Kentucky seniors."

However, the $700 billion in Medicare cuts included in the federal Affordable Care Act do not cut benefits for seniors. Instead, the cuts come from reduced payments to providers over a 10-year period.

Those cuts also were included in Ryan's 2011 budget plan, which McConnell supported during a procedural vote that would have allowed the bill to be debated on the Senate floor.

In addition, Grimes has refused to say whether she would have voted for or against the federal health care law had she been in the Senate at the time. Instead, she has called for making unspecified fixes to the law and has criticized McConnell for seeking to repeal it.

Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst accused the McConnell campaign of telling "egregious falsehoods" and saying "whatever it takes to deceive Kentuckians to hide his vote in support of the reckless Ryan budget that would end Medicare as we know it."

Later Wednesday, the Grimes campaign released an online video ad that accused McConnell of wanting to destroy the entitlement program and make life harder for seniors.

The web ad featured MSNBC's Ed Schultz saying that McConnell's "wish list" includes raising the eligibility age for Medicare benefits. Schultz cites a Nov. 30, 2012 article in The Wall Street Journal, in which McConnell says a deal on the federal budget might be possible if lawmakers could reach bipartisan agreement on higher Medicare premiums for the wealthy, an increase in the Medicare eligibility age and slowing cost-of-living increases for Social Security.

The Grimes campaign said it is spending "thousands" to distribute the video online.

In a statement, McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore belittled the video.

"I don't think running out MSNBC's Ed Shultz in a web video is going to extinguish the flames on her credibility," Moore said. "The Obama handlers have to be burning the phone lines trying to get someone in the Grimes camp to just stop and call it a week."

Sam Youngman: (502) 875-3793. Twitter: @samyoungman. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.

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