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Beshear seeks federal disaster aid for July’s flooding

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT –Gov. Steve Beshear has asked President Obama to issue a major disaster declaration and provide emergency assistance to persons in four counties recovering from last month’s flooding.

Strong storms from July 11 to July 20 caused heavy rain and flash flooding, which claimed lives, washed out roads and forced people from their homes in several communities, Beshear said.

In his letter to Obama, Beshear noted the four deaths attributed to the flash flood that destroyed the mountain community of Flat Gap in Johnson County.

Beshear is asking for a major disaster declaration of assistance for people in the counties of Carter, Johnson, Rowan and Trimble.

McConnell reacts to U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Affordable Care Act

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate Floor Thursday regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling that upheld the federal Affordable Care Act:

“That we’re even discussing another of Obamacare’s self-inflicted brushes with the brink — again — is the latest indictment of a law that’s been a rolling disaster for the American people.

“Today’s ruling won’t change Obamacare’s multitude of broken promises, including the one that resulted in millions of Americans losing the coverage they had and wanted to keep. Today’s ruling won’t change Obamacare’s spectacular flops, from humiliating website debacles to the total collapse of exchanges in states run by the law’s loudest cheerleaders. Today’s ruling won’t change the skyrocketing costs in premiums, deductibles, and co-pays that have hit the middle class so hard over the last few years.

“The politicians who forced Obamacare on the American people now have a choice: crow about Obamacare’s latest wobble towards the edge, or work with us to address the ongoing negative impact of a 2,000-page law that continues to make life miserable for too many of the same people it purported to help.”

–Jack Brammer

KY House Democratic leaders talk road projects with Rogers, Paul and Boehner

Four Kentucky Democratic House leaders met Wednesday in Washington with U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, to discuss road projects in the state. U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, attended the meeting with Rogers.

The discussions involved Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s efforts to extend the Mountain Parkway in Eastern Kentucky from Prestonsburg to Beckley, W.Va., and widening the Hal Rogers Parkway in south-central Kentucky, bringing it up to interstate standards and extending it southeast to Tennessee.

The combined projects would become part of the Interstate 66 project that Eastern Kentucky leaders and Rogers have long championed.

“These meetings went exactly as we had hoped and show that the support is growing in our nation’s capitol,” said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, in a release.

“They realize, as we do, that projects like these can open up the region in a way no other can. Eastern Kentucky needs a major interstate route to the east and south, and these plans are the best way to do that.”

Kentucky House members with Stumbo were House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins of Sandy Hook, House Speaker Pro Tem Jody Richards of Bowling Green and House Majority Whip Johnny Bell of Glasgow.

They arranged the meetings while in Washington for the National Conference of State Legislature’s Symposium for Legislative Leaders.

Stumbo has asked the state Transportation Cabinet to look at how the project from Prestonsburg to Beckley, W.Va., could be accomplished.

He supports using up to $1 billion of federal abandoned mine land funds.

“Rather than sitting idle, these funds can be used to improve the coal region’s infrastructure and economic future,” he said.

The Kentucky House leaders support expanding the project’s scope to include the Hal Rogers Parkway and tying it together under the I-66 umbrella.

“I want to thank Rep. Rogers, Sen. Paul and House Speaker Boehner for meeting with us and offering their suggestions,” Stumbo said. “These billion-dollar projects can’t be built overnight, but the sooner we can lay the groundwork and planning, the sooner we can begin turning this dream into reality.”

–Jack Brammer

Stumbo open to tolls and naming Mountain Parkway extension to West Virgina after McConnell

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Wednesday he has not ruled out the use of tolls to build a 140-mile extension of the Mountain Parkway from Prestonsburg to Beckley, W. Va..

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, also offered to sponsor a bill to name the completed road after U.S.Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Louisville if he provided funding for it.

The project is estimated to cost between $8 billion and $10 billion.

If there is support for the project in Washington, Stumbo said, he would ask Kentucky’s 2016 General Assembly that starts in January for “some money” for it.

Stumbo made public his recommendation for the project on Tuesday, contending it is needed to “unlock the potentials of our region’s vibrant work force.”

McConnell’s office said he is an ardent supporter of Kentucky’s vital roads but that it’s up to the governor and lawmakers in Frankfort to prioritize Kentucky’s share of federal Highway Trust Fund dollars.

Bevin says he would’ve beaten Grimes ‘more handily’ than McConnell

Matt BevinBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Former U.S. Senate candidate and gubernatorial hopeful Matt Bevin appeared on a conservative radio show Wednesday where he continued to needle U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and questioned U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s sincerity in endorsing McConnell.

Bevin, appearing on the Wednesday edition of Wilkow Majority, was asked by host Andrew Wilkow if he watched Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes campaign against McConnell, after the senator defeated Bevin in the primary, and wondered if he could’ve beat her.

“I kid you not — I’d have beaten her more handily,” Bevin said.

Throughout the interview, Bevin levied shots at a number of the state’s political figures, hitting Grimes (“She’s no Hillary Clinton.”), Attorney General Jack Conway (“The embodiment of everything that is wrong with the plastic career politicians in this country.”) and McConnell’s “buzz saw” campaign.

“I’ve been through the buzz saw indeed,” Bevin said. “And I’ll tell you something, I don’t begrudge any of that that went down. That is the nature sadly of what politics has become.”

Wilkow, who joined the group Freedom Works at a Bevin for Senate rally last spring, joked with Bevin about Grimes’ refusal to say whether she voted for President Barack Obama.

“They had clearly not pre-selected the sound-byte that she was to be provided, and it’s a shame,” Bevin said. “Unfortunately, as a result of that, Kentucky didn’t really have it’s best foot out forward perhaps on that side from the Democrats.”

Bevin also appeared to quibble with McConnell’s stewardship of the U.S. Senate since he became majority leader last month.

“The solutions to what is gonna fix America are not coming from the top down,” Bevin said. “You look already, we have majorities now in congress and in the Senate, and look we’re making some of the same excuses we made when we didn’t.”

Josh Holmes, the senior adviser to McConnell’s re-election campaign, said in an email Thursday afternoon that “at some point you have to start asking whether Matt Bevin should be medicated.”

“The guy has no grasp on reality whatsoever and his delusions of grandeur are simply breathtaking,” Holmes said.

Wilkow described Paul, who endorsed McConnell in his re-election effort, as someone who endorsed the establishment candidate but was torn in doing so, asking Bevin if it was “painful” that Paul did not endorse him.

Bevin said Paul reminded him of “the Violent Femmes song ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?'” Wilkow corrected Bevin, noting that it was The Clash who sang that song.

“I know Rand well,” Bevin said, calling Paul’s endorsement of McConnell a “conscientious decision.”

“I’ve known him from the beginning,” Bevin said. “I was one of the people who supported him early on and maxed out when others didn’t.”

When asked if he thought either McConnell or Paul might endorse him in his race to be governor, Bevin said he had every indication both would stay neutral, calling that the “proper thing to do.”

While he largely spared his current Republican opponents, Bevin repeated that his life experience and “knowledge of issues” separates him from the three Republicans running against him.

“I would love to just have a debate at any moment in time with any of the candidates in this race,” Bevin said.

The candidate closed out the show by noting that while much of the audience doesn’t live in Kentucky, they should check out his website and contribute to his campaign.

Controversial McConnell mailer wins campaign awards

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

A direct mail piece that Mitch McConnell’s campaign sent to Eastern Kentuckians in the closing days of last year’s U.S. Senate race, prompting a lawsuit from Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes, won several campaign awards last week.

When Campaigns and Elections magazine handed out its annual Reed Awards in Las Vegas Friday night, McConnell’s “Fraud Alert” mailer, which Democrats decried as an attempt at voter suppression, won five awards, including “best direct mail piece for 2014.”

The outside of the mailer described it as an “Election Violation Notice,” and on the inside listed areas where the McConnell campaign said Grimes was trying to mislead voters.

Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst called the mailer “despicable,” and Grimes sought an injunction against distributing the mailer in Franklin County Circuit Court. A judge denied the request.

The mail piece, produced by the Lukens Company, also won for “best direct mail piece for Republican statewide candidate,” “best mail piece for a bare-knuckled street fight
victory,” “toughest direct mail piece” and “most daring and successful tactic.”

McConnell’s campaign also won for best website and “best use of social media targeting,” with credit going to GOP tech guru Vince Harris’s firm. Harris has since signed on with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.

McConnell beat Grimes by more than 15 percentage points.

Group seeks end of controversial campaign finance measure

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT –Five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court shook up the world of campaign finance by ruling that corporations and unions may spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns.

Since then, a very small part of the American public –0.01 percent — has donated 40 percent of all the contributions.

That needs to be stopped, said a small group in front of the Capitol Wednesday that offered the statistic to reporters.

They were in support for a 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution to do away with the 2010 high court ruling called “Citizens United.”

A tiny portion of this country is funding elections and, in effect, controlling their outcome, said Richard Beliles, a Louisville attorney who is chair of Common Cause of Kentucky.

The group is part of the national Common Cause organization that advocates open, honest and accessible state and local government.

Common Cause held rallies across the country Tuesday similar to the one at the Kentucky Capitol and urged members of Congress to join the efforts in curbing campaign spending.

Joining Beliles in Frankfort were Louisville retired attorney George Schuhmann with Public Citizen, a non-profit, consumer rights advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.; Amy Waters of Louisville with 350.org, a global climate movement; and Jan Christensen of Louisville with 350.org and the environmental group, Sierra Club.

Washington Post says Mitch McConnell had the best year in Washington

mitch-mcconnellBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

As far as politics are concerned, incoming U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arguably had the best year of any Kentuckian.

According to The Washington Post, McConnell also had the best year of anybody in Washington.

The Post’s Chris Cilizza handed out his yearly awards over the weekend, and he gave McConnell the nod for best year “for getting the job of his dreams.”

McConnell’s landslide win over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes and his ascension to U.S. Senate Majority Leader after Republicans around the country joined him in victory on Election Night earned the senator the trophy.

“McConnell — like Harry Reid, whom he will replace in the Senate’s top job — is not a flashy politician who surged through the ranks in record time,” Cilizza wrote. “He is a plotter and a strategist of the highest order, a man who always has a plan and executes it relentlessly.”

Cilizza noted that while McConnell failed in making President Barack Obama a one-term president, “McConnell has the chance not only to lead and (try to) unite his party, but also to redefine for the broader public what it means to be a Republican.”

Not coincidentally, Cilizza named Obama winner of the worst year in Washington.

Lexington attorney Luke Morgan considering GOP bid for attorney general

By Jack Brammer jbrammer@herald-leader.com FRANKFORT – Luke Morgan, a Lexington attorney with experience in trial court and state administrative hearings, is considering a possible run as a Republican for state attorney general in 2015. Morgan, 51, said Tuesday he has not yet made a decision on whether to run to be the state’s chief law-enforcement […]

Judge denies Grimes’ request to stop GOP mailers

McConnellGrimesBy Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — A judge denied a request Monday from Alison Lundergan Grimes’ U.S. Senate campaign to stop mailers from the Republican Party of Kentucky that Grimes said intimidated voters.

Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd turned down the Grimes campaign’s request for a temporary injunction against the mailers, which were distributed last week on behalf of the re-election campaign of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Kelsey Cooper, a spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Kentucky, said Grimes’ “sloppy lawsuit may go down in history as one of the worst publicity stunts of all time.”

Grimes campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton said the campaign “is exploring options.”

“It’s reprehensible that Mitch McConnell is celebrating lying, intimidating, and bullying Kentucky voters from exercising their right to vote,” Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst said in a statement. “There’s no low too low for Mitch McConnell in his personal quest for power.”

Grimes and McConnell face each other in Tuesday’s biggest election in the state.

In a lawsuit filed Friday, the Grimes campaign said the mailer is false and misleading in that it implies to voters that they have violated Kentucky election laws.

The mailer is emblazoned with “Election Violation Notice” and states that “you are at risk of acting on fraudulent information that has been targeted for citizens living in” the recipient’s county.

A one-page letter inside lists what it calls “blatant lies” told by Grimes, saying “Grimes should be ashamed of herself.”