FRANKFORT, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Hundreds of tea party supporters welcomed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell into the movement on Tuesday, appearing alongside junior Senator Rand Paul. The joint appearance signified a united opposition to the expansion of the federal government's role and mandate of health care.
The president of the Louisville Tea Party, Sarah Durand, emphasized that the movement does not always agree with Republican legislators and the Republican party, "but when we do agree, it's important that we unite and show the strength in our unity."
"So, today we put our differences aside and stand together to fight for our health care freedom," Durand said.
An estimated 300 to 400 people gathered outside the Kentucky State Capitol for the rally, which also drew dozens of counter-protesters supporting President Barack Obama and the Affordable Care Act.
"I don't know where you came from," Paul (R) told the crowd. "(Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid said the Tea Party is dead. Is the Tea Party over?"
The crowd shouted, "No."
Paul reiterated his disagreement with the Supreme Court's narrow decision that ruled the Affordable Care Act as constitutional because it is a tax.
"I still think the whole damn thing is unconstitutional," Paul said to cheers.
Repeating his description of the ACA as the "single worst piece of legislation in his lifetime," McConnell (R) said it is Obama's "single biggest step in Europeanizing America."
McConnell said the law is handing over "our own health and the health of our family" to a centralized government.
"We cant let this stand," McConnell told the rally. "And if I am setting the agenda this January instead of Harry Reid, repeal of Obamacare will be job one."
Introducing McConnell, Paul made a concerted effort to vouch for the longest serving U.S. Senator in Kentucky history as an ally with the tea party in the health care fight.
Paul stressed McConnell's bonafides, more than 100 Senate speeches on the issue, fostering united Republican opposition to the bill, and McConnell having filed four legal challenges against the legislation.
"I give to you a man who has been more vocal against Obamacare than probably anyone in Washington," Paul said.
In the 2010 Republican primary for U.S. Senate, McConnell supported Secretary of State Trey Grayson over Paul, yet at the rally thanked the tea party for its role in electing Paul.
"Bright, capable, effective," McConnell said. "An extraordinary new Senator from Kentucky and my teammate, Rand Paul."
"He's a national leader making a difference for Kentucky and America in 2010," McConnell added.
The alliance of the establishment and the Tea Party also served as a public acknowledgment by McConnell that the tea party is a relevant force in Kentucky politics.
"I'm glad he is appearing because I think we need to unite with all forces to help stop Obamacare and the 'Obamanation' that he wants to do," said Nancy Deaton.
Yet several tea party supporters at the rally were unswayed by McConnell's appearance.
"I think he's been in Congress too long," said George Pypiak, later acknowledging that he would support McConnell if it meant a repeal of the health care law.
"(McConnell's appearance) just means that he is a little bit afraid," said Frank Harris. "He's afraid not to acknowledge the Tea Party."
Harris hopes that McConnell faces a tea party opponent in the 2014 Republican primary.
"I'm afraid that a lot of the Tea Party is being folded back into the Republican Party," Harris said. "They're jumping on board with Mitt Romney."
Several major issues in McConnell's voting record are at odds with tea party priorities, such as past support of congressional earmarks, the Patriot Act and the bank bailout.
"I think he sees the strength of the Tea Party Movement," Harris said. " I think he recognizes that the Tea Party movement is not going away, that it's growing and that he at least has to give lip service to us. I don't expect it will change his voting."
A few dozen supporters of the health care law also attended the rally and shouted their opinions.
After Debra Harper suffered a mild stroke in February, she says her insurance company denied surgery needed to repair a hole in her heart.
"I want to get rid of that denying that the insurance companies does and have no limits and let everybody else have that piece of mind," Harper said. "And I actually was scared that I would have to mortgage my house to get that operation."
"If the government is in the shape they're in now," countered Deaton, "think what shape they're going to be in if they take over our health care to control with 15 bureaucrats."