Republicans now have the Senate, but Sen. Mitch McConnell’s way forward on rolling back Obamacare still isn’t clear.
If McConnell takes over Harry Reid’s spot as majority leader in January as expected, he’ll be making the call on whether to pass a complete repeal or not. The Senate could use reconciliation, a parliamentary procedure, to pass a bill for Obamacare’s repeal with just 51 votes. The GOP won control of the Senate Tuesday night with at least 52 seats and may pick up two more that are undecided. (RELATED: Incumbent Senator Mitch McConnell Takes Kentucky, Defeats Alison Lundergan Grimes)
A Republican leadership aide said McConnell sees reconciliation as a promising tool for repeal and will pursue that and other options to rollback the law aggressively.
Time reported that full repeal isn’t a priority in an interview with McConnell published Wednesday. But McConnell spokesman Brian McGuire told TheDC that the Senator is fully committed to repeal. (RELATED: Republicans Win Control Of The US Senate)
“Repealing the medical device tax, trying to restore the 40-hour work week, trying to get rid of the individual mandate” are all on the table, McConnell told Time. “These are the kinds of things that I believe there is a bipartisan majority in the Senate to approve.”
McConnell’s been promising to “repeal and replace” Obamacare for years, but in the weeks leading up to the election he’s been raising questions about his commitment. (RELATED: McConnell, Cantor Renew Promise To Repeal Obamacare)
“It would take 60 votes in the Senate. No one thinks we’re going to have 60 Republicans, and it would take a presidential signature,” McConnell said in a Fox News interview last week. “I’d like to put the Senate Democrats in the position of voting on the most unpopular parts of this law and see if we can put it on the president’s desk.”
McConnell’s hedging on Obamacare’s all-out repeal has concerned conservatives who want to move forward with repeal whether President Barack Obama’s in office or not.
But a McConnell spokesman insists the senator is still willing to use reconciliation to pass Obamacare’s repeal.
“Leader McConnell is and has always been committed to the full repeal of Obamacare, and he’ll continue to lead efforts to repeal and replace it with patient-centered reforms that enable greater choice at lower costs,” McConnell spokesman Brian McGuire clarified to The Daily Caller (and the Washington Examiner) when asked about plans for repeal. “He knows it won’t be easy, but he also believes that if Republicans are fortunate enough to take back the majority we’ll owe it to the American people to try through votes on full repeal, the bill’s most onerous provisions, and reconciliation.”
But in the aftermath of the election, McConnell may stick to repealing certain provisions of Obamacare, rather than a complete repeal. McConnell has consistently been in favor of repealing especially unpopular provisions of Obamacare as an alternative. A GOP Senate could target policies including the oft-delayed employer mandate, the individual mandate and the provision defining the full-time work week as 30 hours.
Getting rid of some provisions, such as the medical device tax, is likely to have bipartisan support — over 30 Senate Democrats voted for its repeal in 2013, although the vote was symbolic and the budget not passed. Other key parts of the health-care law, such as the mandates, may continue to be party-line votes.
Even if the GOP Senate passed a bill to repeal the health-care law in full, it wouldn’t be enough to get a bill past Obama’s desk. With somewhere between 52 to 54 Republican votes, a full repeal would not withstand a presidential veto.