Naturally, Mitch's claim has journalists scratching their heads and has even has a spokesman for his Democratic challenger saying the senator "cannot tell the difference between fact and fiction." In today's Washington Post, fact checker Glenn Kessler tries to get at the bottom of what Mitch meant, resulting in a convoluted flurry of claims from McConnell's campaign manager about what exactly his boss was trying to convey when he said that Kynect's fate was "unconnected" with Obamacare. A flavor of McConnell-land's response:
Benton responded: “Medicaid existed before Obamacare and will exist if we are able to repeal it. Obamacare loosened eligibility requirements for Medicaid recipients, and in the process, helped find many who were already eligible but no enrolled. These people would remain eligible even after a repeal. The federal government does allow states flexibility in setting requirements and Kentucky could be able to keep many of the newly enrolled in the program if we decided to.”Kessler concludes that McConnell is trying to "straddle a political fence" and his colleague Greg Sargent concludes that McConnell's position is "still gibberish," but at a minimum, Mitch "wants Kentucky residents to think he would, or that he might" keep popular elements of Obamacare intact.
My view is that turning this into a debate over nitty-gritty policy details is a mistake: Mitch McConnell's position is that we can repeal Obamacare and keep everything good about it too. That's not a policy statement, it's a political one, and trying to evaluate it as a serious statement of policy gives it more respect than it deserves.
McConnell should have the opportunity to withdraw his claim that repealing the Affordable Care Act is unconnected to Kynect's fate. If he wants to go back to defending Obamacare repeal, by all means, let him. But trying to understand what he meant and giving him a chance to explain it makes as much sense as suggesting that there's a nuanced discussion to be had over the question of whether 1+1=3.