Story by Collin Morris, Assistant Sports Editor
On Oct. 1, 2013, open enrollment began for Kentucky’s health care exchange known as Kynect – the program went on to become known as one of the most successful implementations of former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Four years later, former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear faced the U.S. Congress to defend his state’s success once more.
President Donald Trump delivered his first address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night. The U.S. Constitution requires the president to occasionally report to Congress, and every president since Ronald Reagan has delivered this address to Congress early in their terms, according to History.com.
More recently, it has become a political custom for the opposing party to choose a representative to deliver a response to the president’s address.
Tuesday, Beshear followed Trump’s address with the Democrats’ perspective of the country’s well-being, which had been previously announced by Democratic leaders, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi.
Beshear, who completed his second and final term as governor in 2015, delivered his address live from a local restaurant in Lexington. He focused on division, financial policies, Wall Street and, predominantly, “Obamacare.”
He began his rebuke by knocking one of Trump’s many executive orders.
“Mr. President, as a candidate, you promised to be a champion for families struggling to make ends meet and I hope you live up to that promise,” Beshear said. “But one of your very first executive orders makes it harder for those families to even afford a mortgage.”
He then went on to question Trump’s stances on financial regulations, as well as the backgrounds of his cabinet appointees.
“Then you started rolling back rules that provide oversight of the financial industry and safeguard us against another national economic meltdown,” Beshear said, referring to the president’s weakening of the Dodd-Frank Act. “And you picked a Cabinet of billionaires and Wall Street insiders who want to eviscerate the protections that most Americans count on and that help level the playing field.”
Beshear then transitioned his focus to the issue of health care, using approximately six of his nine minutes and the remainder of his speech to defend affordable health insurance.
“Mr. President, folks here in in Kentucky expect you to keep your word, because this isn’t a game – it’s life and death for people,” Beshear said. “These ideas promise access to care, but deny the importance of making care affordable and effective. They would charge families more for fewer benefits and put the insurance companies back in control.”
He said those unable to afford health coverage aren’t anomalies, but regular Americans with whom we associate frequently.
“Look, they’re not aliens from some distant planet. They are our friends and neighbors. We sit in the bleachers with them on Friday night, we worship in the pews with them on Sunday morning,” Beshear said. “And before the Affordable Care Act, they woke up every morning and went to work, just hoping and praying they wouldn’t get sick because they knew that they were just one bad diagnosis away from bankruptcy.”
Beshear also acknowledged Trump’s recent debacle with members of the press corp, saying descent is not inherently treacherous.
“President Trump also needs to understand that people may disagree with him from time to time, but that doesn’t make them his enemies,” Beshear said. “When the president attacks the loyalty and credibility of our intelligence agencies, the court system, the military, the free press, individual Americans, simply because he doesn’t like what they say, he’s eroding our democracy and that’s reckless.”
In closing, Beshear said Democrats are looking to refocus the country’s leaders and bureaucrats and called for Americans to unite under the language of the Pledge of Allegiance.
“Kentucky made real progress while I was governor because we were motivated by one thing – helping families. Democrats are trying to bring that same focus back to Washington D.C.,” Beshear said. “Americans are a diverse people and we may disagree on a lot of things, but we’ve always come together when we remember that we are one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”