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Kentucky congressmen bet bourbon on Cats-Cards game

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington
By Sam Youngman

As the trash talk heading into Friday’s March Madness match-up between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Louisville Cardinals hits a fever pitch, two of Kentucky’s congressmen are getting in on the rivalry.

Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr of Lexington and Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth announced a friendly wager on the outcome of the game, with the winner taking home a bottle of bourbon from every distillery in the other’s home district.

If Louisville were to win — in a reversal from Kentucky’s tournament victory over the Cardinals in 2012 — Barr would be on the hook to deliver a bottle from Buffalo Trace, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, Wild Turkey, Town Branch and Barrel House Distillery.

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville

Barr took to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday morning to declare his allegiance to the Wildcats, noting Kentucky’s win over Louisville in December.

“When it comes to college basketball, there’s simply no place like my old Kentucky home,” Barr said. “Our Wildcats won the meeting earlier this season and I am looking forward to enjoying some of our neighboring district’s finest distilled spirits after the Cats beat the Cardinals … again.”

Yarmuth responded, in a joint statement from both offices, that “Kentucky has a lot of talented players, and they’re maturing into a great basketball team.”

“But the Cardinals are proven winners,” Yarmuth said. “The defending champs lead the nation in margin of victory, turnover margin and, by my count, booms. And Coach Pitino’s undefeated Sweet 16 record is — there’s no other word for it — Russdiculous.”

John Yarmuth: Alison Lundergan Grimes wise to say little about health law

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville

By Sam Youngman —

WASHINGTON — The last Kentucky Democrat in Washington said Wednesday that Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes has been politically smart to avoid taking a firm stance on President Barack Obama’s health care law.

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, said Grimes can wait until Kentuckians decide if they like the new law, major portions of which went into effect in Kentucky on Tuesday, and not give Republican allies of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell a chance to tie her to Obama.

“I think it is probably smart politics,” Yarmuth told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “She didn’t vote for it because she didn’t have to vote for or against it. I think just from a very pragmatic political perspective, I think she has the opportunity to wait and see how it’s received. When she starts to say positive things about it, the climate will be better for her to do that.”

When pressed by reporters, Grimes has previously said she is troubled by some parts of the Affordable Care Act and would push to “fix” some of its mandates on businesses, but not repeal the entire law.

Barr, Guthrie, Yarmuth get an earful about health care law at Lexington hearing

By Jack Brammer —

Sharp opinions on the federal Affordable Care Act were aired Tuesday in Lexington at a U.S. Congressional field hearing and a news conference by two conservative groups that said U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell should do more to block the law.

The two events underscored just how politically dangerous the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, remains for Democrats and Republicans alike as major parts of the law take effect in coming months.

The health insurance overhaul has become a major issue in Kentucky’s 2014 U.S. Senate race, especially in the Republican primary election between McConnell and Louisville businessman Matt Bevin.

At the Lexington Public Library Tuesday, the U.S. House’s Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pension held a public hearing where several business owners complained of too much uncertainty about the law and expressed fear that it will hurt them financially.

Their testimony came in front of U.S. Reps. Andy Barr, R-Lexington; Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green; John Yarmuth, D-Louisville; and subcommittee chairman Phil Roe, R-Tenn.

Beshear says lawmakers may redraw Kentucky’s congressional districts

Gov. Steve Beshear

By Beth Musgrave

FRANKFORT — State lawmakers may have to redraw the boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts later this year when they meet in a special session to remake state legislative districts, Gov. Steve Beshear said Monday.

Beshear said he expects to announce the date of a special legislative session by Friday, when a hearing is scheduled in a federal court case filed by northern Kentucky officials and residents who say they are disadvantaged by the legislature’s inaction on redistricting.

The House and Senate passed new boundaries for congressional districts and state legislative districts in 2012, but the maps for state districts were ruled unconstitutional by the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Two federal lawsuits have been filed that seek to force lawmakers to create new boundaries for legislative districts or allow a federal court to draw the boundaries. Lawmakers are required to set new boundaries once each decade to account for shifting populations.

A key point of contention between House Democrats and Senate Republicans has been whether to include federal prisoners in their population counts when redrawing district boundaries.

McConnell says Supreme Court health care decision is ‘road to repeal’

By Beth Musgrave

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged Thursday to overturn a federal health care law less than an hour after the U.S. Supreme Court largely upheld the cornerstone legislation of President Barack Obama’s administration.

McConnell, in a speech on the Senate floor, said Thursday’s 5-4 decision “doesn’t mark the end of the debate. It marks a fresh start on the road to repeal.”

The Kentucky Republican used the court’s argument that the mandate to purchase health insurance is a tax as fodder to overturn the controversial law.

“They knew that it would never have passed if they said it was a tax,” McConnell said of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. “The bill was sold to the American people on a deception.”

Other Kentucky Republicans criticized the court’s ruling Thursday and used the decision to rally support and raise money for Republican candidates.

Chandler and Yarmuth fly UK, U of L flags on Capitol steps

Kentucky’s two Democratic congressmen are at odds.

When the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville play Saturday in the NCAA Final Four, U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles, will be rooting for the Wildcats and U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, will be cheering on the Cardinals.

The two took playful shots at the opposing teams in a news release issued Wednesday. It was accompanied by a photo of Chandler and Yarmuth holding UK and U of L flags while standing on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

Here’s the news released issued by Chandler:

Beshear signs into law new boundaries for Kentucky’s congressional districts


By Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear signed into law Friday a compromise plan to redraw the boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts after the plan rocketed through the General Assembly on Friday.

The new map in House Bill 302 moves part of Jessamine County, including Wilmore, and all of Garrard, Mercer and Boyle counties from Central Kentucky’s 6th District to the 2nd District, which extends west to Owensboro. Lincoln County was moved to Eastern Kentucky’s 5th District.

The 6th District gained the remaining portion of Scott County, a southern strip of Harrison County, and all of Robertson, Nicholas, Fleming, Bath, Menifee and Wolfe counties.

Those changes are expected to make it tougher for Republican Andy Barr to successfully challenge U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles.

Legislators may finally be ready to approve congressional redistricting

By Jack Brammer and Janet Patton

FRANKFORT — After weeks of contentious negotiations, the state legislature is expected to produce a map Friday that redraws boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts.

Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said late Thursday there will be a vote Friday on a congressional redistricting map.

Stivers declined to say what the map will look like, “but we believe it will be a plan that will pass both chambers.”

He said the Senate has made no changes yet in a map the House sent it earlier this week, but “there’s always the possibility. Because of the sensitivity of the issue in discussions that will continue tonight and tomorrow, it probably will be premature to comment on what we have discussed with leaders of both houses.”

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said earlier this week that the latest map proposal basically protects incumbents.

No compromise on congressional redistricting; issue probably headed to court

By Beth Musgrave

FRANKFORT — State lawmakers failed to redraw the boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts before Tuesday’s candidate filing deadline, which means the issue probably will end up in court.

House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, told House members about 20 minutes after the 4 p.m. filing deadline that a compromise agreement between the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate could not be reached.

The House and Senate had delayed the original deadline from Jan. 31 to Feb. 7 to give the two sides more time to reach an agreement.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, had worked with members of congress on a possible compromise that late last week looked promising, House leaders said. But Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers said Tuesday afternoon that the two sides appeared to “agree to disagree.”

Stumbo said congressional candidates will run in the state’s existing districts. That means someone — either a candidate or a national political party — will probably challenge the constitutionality of Kentucky’s districts.

House, Senate appear close on congressional redistricting plan

By Beth Musgrave and Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT — House and Senate negotiators appear close to an agreement on new boundaries for Kentucky’s six congressional districts.

“We have a map that shows great promise,” House Speaker Greg Stumbo said late Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said the Senate has had “little time to analyze anything” from the House, but “hope springs eternal.”

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said the staff of U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, has been instrumental in helping the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-led Senate come to a consensus after weeks of negotiations.

Senate leaders were looking at a proposed map after the chamber adjourned Thursday evening. If the Senate agrees to the new map, it’s possible for the legislature to approve the plan before the Feb. 7 filing deadline for congressional candidates.