In an interview with National Public Radio this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed doubts about his party returning to the repeal and replacement of Obamacare in 2018. Noting that Senate Republicans were now a seat shorter than they were when they tried to repeal the bill this year, McConnell said it was probably time to “move on to other issues.” This puts him at odds with the White House and several members of the House of Representatives, to say nothing of conservatives in the Senate, all of whom still want to make good on the party’s promise to voters.
In a tweet the day after Christmas, President Trump said that the repeal of the individual mandate, made possible by the tax reform bill, would likely lead the way for repeal and replace legislation. He predicted that the Affordable Care Act would not be able to survive without the mandate, thus forcing Republicans and Democrats to come together around a new healthcare bill.
But McConnell says that he’s uncertain how, with the loss of the Alabama Senate seat, the party will be able to pass legislation they weren’t able to pass with a stronger majority.
“We’ll have to take a look at what that looks like with a 51-49 Senate,” he told NPR. “But I think we’ll probably move on to other issues.”
According to the Washington Examiner, there is still plenty of appetite in the House for taking another shot at the unpopular healthcare law:
“I still think there is enough bandwidth on the House side to get it done,” said Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., leader of the 170-member conservative Republican Study Committee.
The House was able to pass its own Obamacare repeal and replace bill in May, but the Senate couldn’t pass its own version in late July.
“Sen. McConnell didn’t want to do a lot of things but we still got a lot of things done,” Walker said in a dig at the majority leader.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., also said Obamacare repeal was “still on the table.” He said President Trump and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. — who helped spearhead his own repeal bill with Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La. — are still on board for repealing the healthcare law.
But Meadows said that Republicans can’t abandon going after Obamacare repeal.
“To accept defeat when we have health insurance premiums going up each and every day, and I get more complaints about insurance premiums than anything else, inaction is not an option,” he said.
It’s understandable that Republicans don’t want to immediately follow up their huge tax bill victory with another Obamacare quagmire, and McConnell’s pragmatic note about the party’s shrinking Senate majority it well taken. At the same time, there are still millions of voters – some of whom are small business owners suffering under the Obamacare mandates that WEREN’T repealed – who want to see the relief they were promised. Getting rid of the individual mandate was a crucial step forward, but we’d love to see the GOP and Trump find some way to finish the job.