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In a new ad from Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, retired coal miner Don Disney looks straight into the camera and asks Mitch McConnell why he voted to raise his Medicare costs by $6,000.
The only problem? McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, cast no such vote.
The 2011 bill McConnell supported, on which the ad’s claim is based, proposed moving ahead on a plan in the House by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to privatize Medicare over time. That overhaul could have raised costs for future beneficiaries over time, some analysts said. But people such as Disney — already retired or approaching retirement — would have seen no changes.
“Current Medicare benefits are preserved for those in and near retirement,” stated the bill, which failed in the Senate. Moreover, Ryan’s plan at the time would have kept traditional Medicare as an option for people aging into the system over the next decade.
In the 30-second ad, Grimes sits with Disney of Cloverlick, Kentucky, who poses this question as if speaking to McConnell: “I want to know how you could’ve voted to raise my Medicare costs by $6,000. How are my wife and I supposed to afford that?” Then Disney and Grimes pretend to wait for an answer while the only sound is a dog barking in the distance.
Grimes did not back down when asked about the ad on Tuesday following her speech to a gathering of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
“We’ll let Mitch McConnell explain his vote for the Paul Ryan budget, which actually increases Medicare costs and privatizes Social Security,” Grimes said. But neither she nor her campaign explained why they showcased a Medicare recipient who would have been exempt from the changes proposed under Ryan’s plan.
McConnell declined to comment about the ad as he left the Senate floor on Tuesday. But his campaign called the ad “the oldest, most cynical attack in the Obama playbook.”
The Grimes campaign said it got its $6,000 figure from a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That report was based on data from the Congressional Budget Office. But the estimate is a hypothetical extra cost for future retirees, not for people like Disney.
It is the first in what the campaign says will be a series of ads featuring Kentucky voters asking McConnell questions. Grimes spokeswoman Charly Norton declined to say what those future ads will be about.
Grimes and McConnell are locked in one of the closest Senate races in the country.
Woodward reported from Washington. Reporter Charles Babington contributed reporting from Washington.
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