Arizona Gov. Dough Ducey (R) announced Tuesday that he will appoint former Sen. Jon Kyl (R) to succeed Sen. John McCain (R), who passed away last month. Kyl previously served alongside McCain until his retirement in 2012.
Kyl has been keeping himself busy since he left the Senate. Among his projects, he’s been lobbying on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry, helping Facebook figure out whether it has a liberal bias, and shepherding Brett Kavanaugh through his nomination process to the Supreme Court.
Having served 18 years in the Senate, including six years as the Senate Minority Whip, Kyl also has a storied record as a staunchly conservative lawmaker. He was one of President Obama’s most vocal critics, even suggesting he should be impeached over his immigration policies. Kyl defended Arizona’s SB 1070, a controversial law that encouraged racial profiling to identify undocumented immigrants, while he himself opposed any path to citizenship for even those who were brought to the country as children. He once even said they could just marry U.S. citizens, which is actually illegal to do fraudulently.
One of Kyl’s most infamous moments was when he falsely claimed on the Senate floor that abortion constituted 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does. The comment came as the government was hours away from a shutdown as Republican lawmakers refused to approve any budget resolution that didn’t completely defund the reproductive health organization.
After pundits pointed out abortion constitutes only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services, Kyl’s office issued a statement claiming that the senator’s remark “was not intended to be a factual statement.” Kyl then clarified that the office’s statement was not intended to be a factual statement either, throwing his press person on the sword for the odd claim. He simply “misspoke” when he wildly distorted how Planned Parenthood serves the health needs of women and gender minorities, he claimed, and had his not-factual statement expunged from the Congressional Record.
Ky’s economic policies didn’t make much more sense. When Obama announced that he was allowing President Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire, Kyl accused the president of engaging in “class warfare.” He had previously said that “you should never have to offset” tax cuts, insisting that cutting taxes was always a good decision no matter how it impacted the budget.
Oddly, Kyl had no problem ending tax cuts for the middle class while maintaining them for millionaires. He was also an incessant proponent of repealing the estate tax to the tune of $80 billion for the heirs of multimillionaires. In 2009, the New York Times characterized him as believing that “the most pressing issue is clear: America’s wealthiest families need help. Now.”
Perhaps what’s most concerning about Kyl succeeding McCain is that Kyl was a fierce opponent of the Affordable Care Act. Last summer, McCain was the deciding vote against the Republicans’ “skinny repeal” bill to roll back Obamacare, but Kyl would surely support such a plan.
Back in 2009, Kyl proudly boasted that he and other Republican lawmakers were trying to slow down Obama’s health care legislation, then later tried to save face by claiming otherwise. As he was arguing against defining what benefits insurance policies must provide, he claimed, “I don’t need maternity care,” prompting Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to retort, “I think your mom probably did.”
In one particularly candid interview, Kyl admitted that conservatives like him believe a totally free market can somehow ensure everyone is covered by health insurance, but they understand such arguments are not very persuasive. Indeed, a free market for health care would let people die if they couldn’t afford to cover the costs of their totally treatable “pre-existing” conditions.
Last week, Kyl described McCain as having been “the conscience of the Senate.” Granting the premise, Kyl is not poised to fill those shoes.