FRANKFORT — From the beginning election politics hovered over the 2014 General Assembly. Thursday’s budget debate and vote in the House reaffirmed that.
It’s a big election year in Kentucky. Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell seems vulnerable in ways he hasn’t previously. Republicans have a legitimate chance to take over the state House of Representatives for the first time in nearly a century.
Kentucky’s other Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul wants to run simultaneously for re-election in 2016 and for president. He needs the General Assembly’s help, however, to do that. He needs lawmakers to change a law that prevents a candidate from running for two offices at the same time.
The Republican-controlled state Senate will oblige. But the Democratically-controlled House won’t. Paul – the Kentucky politician who can most reliably turn out voters on his behalf – said this week that failure by the House to go along on the Senate bill would provide extra “incentive” for him to campaign this fall for Republican House candidates.
So Thursday’s budget speeches were less about finances and policy than they were about politics. House Republican Caucus Chairman Bob DeWeese argued Democratic accusations that Republicans were focused on politics and “Washington-style politics” were unfair and off-base. DeWeese is reasonable, thoughtful and he doesn’t focus purely on political goals. He’s one of the good guys.
But despite DeWeese’s protestations, his colleagues were in fact focused on the election. There was more talk about “Obamacare” than about spending priorities or how to pay for government. Republican Kevin Bratcher proclaimed a vote for the budget “is a vote for Obamacare.” When Democrat John Will Stacy asked Republicans, “Where’s your plan?” Republican Stan Lee suggested Democrats will find out next year when he said Republicans will be the majority party in the House.