Saturday, November 8, 2014

Sen. Mitch McConnell faces diverse pressures on the question of repealing the federal health-reform law

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he still wants to get rid of Obamacare, and the Kentuckian is "under rapidly increasing pressure from conservatives to pursue an aggressive path to repealing the landmark health care law," but it won't be easy, Jennifer Haberkorn reports for Politico.

Ardent conservatives are calling for repeated repeal votes under budget reconciliation, which requires only 51 votes, not the 60 usually needed to do significant business in the Senate. But establishment Republicans "barely mentioned Obamacare" the day after the election, Haberkorn notes. McConnell indicated that 60 votes are needed for repeal, and it takes 67 votes to override a presidential veto.

"McConnell has said that he wants to use the Senate appropriations process to starve funding to the law. When asked about his strategy on Wednesday, he said Republicans would be 'addressing that issue in a variety of different ways' and hinted at using reconciliation by saying that 'There are some things we can do with 51 votes'," Haberkorn writes. "Reconciliation is tricky — it would require Congress to pass a budget resolution, which is no easy task, and in the end, even a successful Obamacare repeal bill would just get vetoed anyway. And by the time they’re done, Republicans would have squandered potentially months of their new majority debating health care."

Several Republican sources say that McConnell will all but certainly hold an early, symbolic full repeal vote that is expected to generate support from every Republican and probably no Democrats. It will fail to overcome the 60-vote threshold for a filibuster. Beyond that, the Republican conference will collectively decide the strategy: a full-bore attack on as much of the law as possible, or a selective picking and choosing of the most vulnerable pieces of the law," such as its tax on medical devices and the coming mandate that employers of more than 50 people insure employees who work 30 or more hours a week.

"While Obamacare on the whole remains unpopular, there are pitfalls in any repeal strategy that includes popular parts of the law," Haberkorn notes. "That includes helping people with pre-existing conditions get covered, the subsidies that make insurance more affordable, and the exchanges, which is particularly popular in McConnell’s home state of Kentucky."

Still, "In some quarters, anything other than the full-scale assault is unacceptable," Haberkorn reports. "When McConnell stated on Fox News the other day the simple fact that Republicans couldn’t repeal the whole thing, the backlash was swift. The Senate Conservatives Fund, which backed his Kentucky Tea Party primary opponent, accused him of being insufficiently committed and of 'making excuses for why he won’t deliver on his central campaign promise.' McConnell’s aides had to send out statements restating how much he despised the health law."

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