Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday that if Republicans take control of the Senate after this year's elections, he would move to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law regardless of a likely veto threat.
McConnell held two events in Lexington, the second a "hospital town hall" — McConnell's 59th such event in Kentucky — with medical professionals at Baptist Health Lexington, where he warned of further dysfunction and disruption caused by the law.
Fewer than 10 protesters stood outside the hospital on Nicholasville Road, some with signs in support of likely Democratic Senate nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes and at least two that read "Despicable Mitch."
When asked what he would do about "Obamacare" if his party is able to regain control of the Senate for the first time since 2006, McConnell explained that he is currently the "defensive coordinator" for his party. If he got promoted to "offensive coordinator," the senator said, he would move to "pull it out root and branch and start over."
"Every member of my party thinks this was a huge mistake for the country and ought to be undone, and if the American people gave us the opportunity, we would," McConnell said.
McConnell, who complimented Obama as a "smart guy," said he doubted the president would be open to repeal given that it is the president's "signature accomplishment."
"We could discuss it with the president, he could say 'I'm not interested in anything,' in which case, I think we would try to send him something even if he would veto it," McConnell said. "Or he could indicate that he was open to some kind of discussion."
The senator said Republicans would look to replace the law, which would "immediately set up an interstate, competitive health insurance market."
"Pit all of these companies against each other, and watch them scramble for the business," he said. "I'm not going to suggest to you that's going to get every single American insured. Obamacare isn't. But I think we'd be better off trying more private-sector oriented, competitive models to try to get at the problems of the uninsured rather than assuming that all the smart people are in Washington."
McConnell pointed to the Medicare Part D law, passed during President George W. Bush's presidency, as an example of private sector competition bringing down costs.
He said the president isn't being truthful when he says that Republicans only want to repeal the law without offering any ideas to replace it.
"Now I know that's not true and he knows that's not true, but he says it," McConnell said. "It's in the category of 'if you like your health insurance policy, you can keep it.'"
Republicans are hopeful they can win back the Senate this November, and McConnell's own electoral fate could have some bearing on that goal.
The five-term senator is facing a primary challenge from Louisville businessman Matt Bevin and a potentially tough general election battle against the Democrats' likely nominee, Grimes.
McConnell did not mention either opponent during his stops in Lexington.
Dr. Aaron Hesselson, a cardiologist in the audience and a registered Republican, said he would "likely" vote for McConnell but is just starting to tune in to the election.
"I've been following more of the national politics of late, but I really haven't gotten into Bevin and what the Tea Party is putting forth," Hesselson said.
The doctor said he would "absolutely" vote for McConnell over Grimes because he is a conservative and he sees a "murky future" in his profession because of "Obamacare."
The Grimes campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. She has previously called for changes to the Affordable Care Act, but said attempts to repeal it are a waste of time.