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Senate Republicans smear Mark Kelly and Doug Jones with false billboards

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is accusing Medicare for All opponents of wanting Medicare for all.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) with colleagues in April 2019.
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) with colleagues in April 2019. CREDIT: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), the campaign arm of the Senate Republicans, has launched a series of billboards attacking several Democratic candidates over their supposed support for Medicare for All.

Not all of the Democrats who are being targeted actually support Medicare for All, and some have explicitly opposed the idea.

One such billboard, appearing alongside Interstate 10 in Tolleson, Arizona, suggests that Democratic candidate Mark Kelly — a retired astronaut who holds no elected office — is to blame for millions of people in the state possibly losing insurance coverage, if such a proposal were ever enacted.

Beside a black-and-white photo of Kelly, the NRSC claims, “Mark Kelly silent as 3,471,500 Arizonans would lose their private health insurance.” The sign suggests that, by replacing the current system of private insurance with a single-payer proposal, those currently covered would be worse off under a public insurance plan.

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Kelly has in fact opposed Medicare for All publicly. “We should be able to provide access to affordable health care for everybody, but I am not in favor for the 156 million of us that get our health care through our employer to make that go away,” Kelly told 12 News in Phoenix in his first interview since launching his campaign. “I mean, we’re not going to be able to promise these folks something better.”

That quote was included in an Arizona Republic story about the billboard, which the NRSC tweeted out on Monday. Neither the NRSC nor the billboard company immediately responded to questions about whether the false ad would be removed.

The NRSC is supporting Kelly’s expected rival, Arizona Sen. Martha McSally (R), who was appointed to fill the vacant Senate seat weeks after losing the state’s other seat in the November 2018 midterms to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, and following Sen. John McCain’s (R) death.

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Sinema attacked McSally in that race for her repeated votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Repealing the ACA, Sinema pointed out, would have stripped health care from the roughly 350,000 Arizonans covered under the law’s Medicaid expansion provisions, and imperiled coverage for an estimated 2.8 million others in the state with pre-existing medical conditions.

The NRSC also paid for a similar billboard in Alabama. The ad attacks Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), claiming he has been “silent as 2,472,100 Alabamians” stand to lose private coverage.

Jones, too, has expressed objections to Medicare for All proposals, such as the one proposed by Vermont senator and 2020 candidate Bernie Sanders (I).

“I’ve got a concern about a Medicare for All plan,” he told CNN last month, predicting that the country would land “somewhere in the middle” on “a healthcare system that needs fixing.”

Jones effectively blocked the Senate’s effort to repeal Obamacare in December 2017, when he won the Alabama special election to carry out the remainder of former Sen. Jeff Sessions’ (R) term. That alone may have saved hundreds of thousands of people in Alabama from losing their coverage.

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The NRSC claims that because Jones has indicated he will back the Democratic nominee in the 2020 election — even if that nominee is not a Medicare for All supporter — that might mean that it would become law. Given that Senate Republicans unanimously oppose the idea and would have to lose at least three seats in 2020 to lose control, such a scenario would only happen if the NRSC fails in several key races next year.

According to The Hill, the NRSC is also running similar ads about Medicare for All and the Green New Deal against Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Tina Smith (D-MN). The total cost of the campaign, the report noted, was just under $10,000.

This story has been updated to correct an error misidentifying Doug Jones’ party affiliation.