Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign sought to distance the senior lawmaker from a far-reaching Republican budget plan he long supported after his Democratic challenger criticized him over that budget's plan to overhaul Medicare, the federal health insurance plan for seniors.
Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes released a television ad on Tuesday highlighting McConnell’s support of a Medicare reform plan that was part of a 2011 GOP budget proposal written by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. In the ad, a 75-year-old retired Kentucky man named Don Disney says McConnell voted to “raise my Medicare costs by $6,000” per year, a claim that isn’t entirely correct, because the Medicare plan wouldn’t have affected current retirees such as Disney, even if it had passed. The Senate never held a formal vote on the resolution.
McConnell publicly supported Ryan’s Medicare plan in 2011, saying that he was “personally very comfortable with the way Paul Ryan would structure it.” When given a chance to take a procedural vote to debate the plan in the Senate, McConnell supported it, although the measure failed and never received a final vote. He would later characterize that vote as a sign of support for the plan, saying on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in 2011, “I voted for the Ryan budget.”
But three years later, when asked about the accusation in Grimes’ ad, the McConnell campaign distanced him from the Ryan plan by suggesting that he might not have voted for the final version of the resolution.
"There is no way to speculate if [McConnell] would have voted for final passage without having debated amendments,” the McConnell campaign told FactCheck.org. An aide also made a similar statement to a reporter at WFPL, a Kentucky radio station. A spokeswoman for McConnell’s campaign did not respond to emails and phone calls asking to elaborate on the quote.
While it’s possible McConnell might have rebuked his entire party and voted against the Republican budget in 2011, it’s telling that — as the election draws near and Grimes’ attacks rain down — he doesn’t seem nearly as enthusiastic about it.