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Barr: GOP Healthcare Bill Alive, Trump's Alleged Pro-Russian Bias A 'Myth'

Josh James
6th District Congressman Andy Barr (R-KY) addresses a Commerce Lexington event (left) as demonstrators congregate in nearby Triangle Park (right)

6th District Congressman Andy Barr laid out a positive vision of the Republican agenda in Lexington Wednesday, waxing optimistic about a revival of the GOP's healthcare reform efforts. But the lawmaker’s visit drew a less warm reception outside.

Speaking at a Commerce Lexington luncheon at the Hyatt Regency hotel, Barr defended the Trump administration’s playbook at home and abroad.

On the domestic front, the third-term Republican hinted that respectful talks are underway to bridge the divide between moderates and the Freedom Caucus that doomed the GOP’s first go-round at overhauling healthcare, which Barr labeled a “mulligan.” The congressman called on his colleagues to help the GOP transition from an opposition party to a governing party.

"I think everybody understands that we need to be in the business of keeping our promises. Republicans, myself included, campaigned for six years on repealing and replacing Obamacare," Barr told reporters. "It's time for use to deliver."

Although FBI and congressional probes into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign appear far from concluding, the congressman declared the narrative connecting the president to Russia a “total myth.” Barr said Trump's airstrikes in Syria, moves to "rebuild" the U.S. military, and other recent actions undercut allegations of pro-Russian sympathies inside the West Wing.

"Those are not pro-Russia policies. What is a pro-Russia policy is drawing a red line in Syria and doing nothing about it," Barr said, referencing an ultimatum critics claim former President Barack Obama failed to enforce.

But outside the event, demonstrators were calling for an independent examination of the evidence of Trump’s Russian connections.

"I think [Trump] colluded with Russia and I hope that a special investigation committee is named to do... an investigation that we can trust," Jody Lambert said, holding a handmade sign featuring caricatures of Trump, White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, and Sen. Mitch McConnell with "Axis of Evil" written above.

Barr’s statement comes amid new reports that the FBI obtained a court order last summer to monitor the communications of Carter Page, a one-time foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign suspected of working with Russia.

But the demonstrators with Indivisible Bluegrass are worried about far more than Russia.

Asked what he would say to Rep. Barr if given the chance, Peter Wedlund pointed to the push toward deregulation, saying Republicans are ignoring the benefits of government protections.

"These guys are... cutting regulations and want to cut regulations more to ease the cost on business. Who's going to pay for it? It's going to be the average working individual. They're going to get stuck with the outcome of that kind of nonsense," he said.

It's the kind of question Wedlund wants to ask the congressman in person, but so far he's been unable to do so - despite attending two Barr town halls in other communities.

For his part, Barr is promising to rectify that by giving his supporters and critics a platform at a Lexington town hall in the coming weeks.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.