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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