WASHINGTON — Gov. Steve Beshear said Thursday he was "disappointed" that Kentucky's U.S. senators "continue to weave their web of misinformation" about President Barack Obama's health care law instead of offering solutions.
Beshear, a Democrat, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul are wrong to say Kentuckians don't want the Affordable Care Act, and he said they would pay a political price for opposing it.
"I would predict to you that a year from now all of these people are going to be turning around and looking at these critics and saying, 'Wait a minute. You were misleading us. Because this works, and I have health insurance I can afford,'" Beshear said.
The governor, in Washington to speak at a conference hosted by National Journal, castigated Washington's "dysfunctionality" before responding to an op-ed co-signed by Paul and McConnell and appearing in the Cincinnati Enquirer that assailed Beshear's support of the law.
"As far as I'm concerned, they can stay up here in Washington and continue their political grandstanding," Beshear said. "I'm going to be in Kentucky, making sure that our people have affordable health insurance."
Kentucky's health insurance exchange, part of the federal health care law, opened Tuesday morning, just as much of the federal government shut down because Congress was deadlocked over the budget and health care. Beshear has said repeatedly since the exchange's launch that he was excited by the thousands of Kentuckians visiting its website.
The governor took specific issue with the assertion by Paul and McConnell that Kentuckians don't want the Affordable Care Act. They criticized Beshear for telling critics of the law to "get over it" in an op-ed piece for The New York Times.
"We're sure that won him some applause in Manhattan," McConnell and Paul wrote. "But the self-congratulatory rhetoric won't do much for families like yours. Obamacare might sell in New York, but Kentuckians aren't buying it."
Beshear responded Thursday by saying "the numbers show otherwise."
"People are really enthused and interested in this and very excited about it," the governor said.
As of 7:30 a.m. Thursday, Beshear said 12,779 applications for health care coverage had been started and 8,309 were completed. He said 3,505 individuals or families using the exchange have enrolled in new health care coverage.
The governor received a warm reception at the conference, which took place at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, with one audience member suggesting he seek federal office.
Beshear laid out his argument for "proudly and aggressively" implementing the health care law while also hurling insults at Washington's stalemate over the issue.
"These folks up here act like a bunch of 9-year-olds in a food fight in a cafeteria," Beshear said.
The governor never named McConnell or Paul during his remarks, but he took aim at "naysayers," saying he was "personally offended by their partisan gamesmanship."
"There is a huge disconnect between the rank partisanship of national politics and governors," Beshear said.
While he has been aggressive in publicizing the start of Kentucky's health insurance exchange, Paul and McCon nell have been dragged increasingly into the spotlight over the government shutdown.
Paul, in a statement, brushed off criticisms from Democrats on Thursday that an exchange he had with McConnell, caught on a live microphone as the two paused between television appearances, reflected a prioritization of political messaging over ending the shutdown.
"I know we don't want to be here, but we're going to win this, I think," Paul said to McConnell.
In a statement, Paul scoffed at the idea he had been caught doing or saying anything wrong.
"Everything that was said 'in private' was also said just minutes earlier in front of cameras during a CNN and a Fox interview," Paul said.
His staff added that the senator has said repeatedly that he thought a federal government shutdown was a bad idea and that he continues to think Republicans have been willing to compromise while Democrats have not.