Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday that Republicans may try again to repeal the Affordable Care Act after the November midterm elections, reviving an issue that polls show has swung sharply in the Democrats’ favor.
In an interview with Reuters, McConnell said that his party’s failure last year to repeal the health-care law, also known as Obamacare, was “the one disappointment of this Congress from a Republican point of view.”
“If we had the votes to completely start over, we’d do it. But that depends on what happens in a couple weeks. . . . We’re not satisfied with the way Obamacare is working,” McConnell said.
Republicans are optimistic about their chances of maintaining control of the Senate next month, while polls suggest that a Democratic takeover of the House is increasingly likely.
The House last May narrowly passed a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, with 20 Republicans and every Democrat voting “no.” Two months later, a “skinny repeal” effort in the Senate failed by one vote as Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) opposed the measure. McCain died of brain cancer in August.
Polls show that health care is a top issue for voters, and many GOP candidates have begun campaigning on a longtime Democratic theme — protecting people with preexisting medical conditions — despite the fact that congressional Republicans have voted time and again to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which provides those protections.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Sunday showed Democrats hold an 18-point advantage over Republicans on the question of which party voters trust to do a better job of handling health care. Eighty-two percent of respondents cited health care as either “one of the single most important issues” or “a very important issue” in their vote for Congress this year.
Repealing the Affordable Care Act remains popular with the Republican base, however, and McConnell’s remarks could be aimed at turning out core voters ahead of next month’s election.
Democrats immediately seized on McConnell’s comments, with the Democratic National Committee, the Senate Democratic campaign arm, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) releasing statements casting them as indicative of Republicans’ plans to do away with protections for preexisting conditions should they keep control of the Senate.
“Americans should make no mistake about it: If Republicans retain the Senate, they will do everything they can to take away families’ health care and raise their costs, whether it be eliminating protections for pre-existing conditions, repealing the health care law, or cutting Medicare and Medicaid,” Schumer said in a statement. “Americans should take Senator McConnell at his word.”
Pelosi said Republicans “keep blurting out the truth,” while Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said in a tweet that McConnell’s statement underscores that Republicans “really are coming after your healthcare.”
“I mean like they are no kidding coming after all of it — pre-existing conditions, essential health benefits — mental health, privatizing the VA — Medicare, Medicaid,” Schatz said. “They believe that more healthcare equals less liberty or something. In any case we have to vote them out.”