Politics

At a Kentucky Farm Bureau event on Saturday, Sen. Mitch McConnell thanked rural voters for helping Republicans take control of the state House of Representatives and White House during elections last month.

McConnell said he was “proud to be the leader of a party that cares about rural America” and that Democrats have neglected rural interests.

“All across rural America, there’s a sea of red. Because our friends on the other side have become an urban-oriented party,” McConnell said.

Trump won 66 percent of the vote in Kentucky while Clinton got 29 percent, winning a majority of votes in only the two most populous Kentucky counties.

In state house races, Republicans turned a 53-47 Democratic majority in the chamber into a 64-36 GOP advantage on Election Day.

The contests were a sea change in Kentucky politics, toppling the last legislative chamber in the South controlled by Democrats. The GOP now has control of both legislative chambers and the governor’s mansion for the first time in state history.

McConnell facetiously thanked President Obama for the Republican victories.

“Thanks to president Obama, there are more Republicans in elected office in America at all levels — local, state, Congress and now the White House — than at any time in 100 years,” McConnell said.

McConnell said the Senate would move to repeal the Affordable Care Act at the beginning of 2017 and a replacement would be developed while the old version is “phased out.” He said current enrollees would not lose healthcare coverage.

McConnell also said he hoped “America will still be in the trading business” after both parties bashed free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership during this year’s presidential campaigns.

“Every trade agreement is not necessarily a loser, but it’s a complicated subject and it was a huge issue in the campaign and as a practical matter, we will not be doing any trade agreements any time soon,” he said. “I think it requires explaining to the American people that there are actually a lot of winners in these trade agreements too and of course American agriculture is an example of that.”

The Kentucky Farm Bureau and American Farm Bureau Federation are in favor of the TPP agreement, which would create a free trade area spanning 12 countries from China to Chile.

Trump campaigned on scrapping and renegotiating U.S. trade agreements like TPP and NAFTA, which includes Canada and Mexico.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.