Kentucky’s U.S. senators told a crowd of supporters they will repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, when given the opportunity.
About 400 stood on the Capitol steps Tuesday at a rally headlined by U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and organized by the Louisville Tea Party.
All of the speakers focused on President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform law.
“I say again today, it’s the single worst piece of legislation that’s been passed in America in modern times, the single biggest step in the direction of Europeanizing America,” McConnell said.
McConnell, the Senate minority leader, said repealing Obamacare will be “job number one” if the GOP takes a majority in the Senate and he sets the chamber’s agenda.
Paul said regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, he thinks the “whole damn thing’s unconstitutional.”
“This has been always about more than just health care,” Paul said. “This has been about whether government is limited by the Constitution or whether government is unlimited.”
The Supreme Court in June ruled 5-4 that the individual mandate at the heart of the law is a tax and therefore allowable under the Constitution.
Paul said Obamacare would be replaced by “a system of health care that provides health care for everyone at a lower cost,” but he did not provide specifics.
Both U.S. senators attended a luncheon at GOP headquarters after the rally and weren’t available for questions after their remarks.
Andy Barr, a Lexington attorney and candidate for the 6th Congressional District against U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, likened Obama to Jack Kevorkian and said Obamacare “is no longer just a fantasy of government bureaucrats in ivory towers.”
Tea party supporters near and far came to the Capitol Tuesday to rally against the controversial and polarizing health care law.
Jonathan Gaby, vice chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party, said he attended mainly to hear McConnell and Paul speak.
Gaby organized a tax day tea party rally in 2009 that drew a comparable crowd, and he said Tuesday’s turnout showed the tea party is more than “a flash in a pan.”
“I think it’s just getting stronger and maturing in its efforts, and we’ll see more from it two, three, four, maybe 10 years down the line,” Gaby said by phone Tuesday after the rally, noting some state and local races have seen more tea party candidates.
Stuart Victor, former chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party, said he was impressed with Paul and the issues he raised in his speech.
“I think his passion showed through,” Victor said by phone Tuesday. “I think he’s going to be a figure to watch at the (Republican National) Convention next week when he gives his speech. The crowd loved him.”
Victor agreed that the tea party has remained strong since its inception. He said he believes Kentucky is the strongest state for the movement, especially after Paul’s election in 2009.
“Of all the senators in the United States Senate, no one identifies himself more to the tea party than Rand Paul does,” he said.
Carol Miller, 65, from Wilmore, said she attended the rally to fight Obamacare, which she is against because it is a tax.
“I don’t want Obamacare anywhere in the country, let alone in Kentucky,” Carol Miller, 65, of Wilmore, said. “I want my voice to be heard.”
Not all came to voice their displeasure with the president or the health care law. Dozens of Obama supporters were in the crowd, some waving signs and starting chants during the rally.
Karen Sterling, 55, from Lexington, was there to support the Affordable Care Act. She said tea party supporters should realize it passed the House, Senate and Supreme Court, and it is legal.
“Health care is a basic human right,” Sterling said. “Health care is not just for rich people.”
Others who spoke at Tuesday’s rally include state Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, and state House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, who both railed against Obamacare and said the state should not expand Medicaid through the health care reform.
Staff Writer Lindsey Erdody contributed to this report.