Reid's office slams McConnell for plan to kill insurance reforms

"It speaks volumes that the first thing on Republicans' 'to do' list is to give power back to big health insurance companies," Reid spokesman Jim Manley said in a statement Thursday. 

"What Senator McConnell is really saying is, 'Republicans want to let insurance companies go back to denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, let them go back to charging women twice as much for the same coverage as men, and let them push millions of seniors back into the Medicare donut hole.'" 

Republican leaders in both the House and Senate have put repeal on their short list of early priorities in the next Congress — and they're pointing to Tuesday's elections as validation for that strategy. 

"The healthcare bill in my view is, sort of, a metaphor for the government excess that we witnessed over the last two years," McConnell told reporters Wednesday. "What the American people were saying [Tuesday] is that they appreciated us saying 'no' to the things that the American people indicated they were not in favor of."

On Thursday, McConnell conceded that repeal won't be easy with a Democratic majority in the Senate and President Obama wielding a veto pen from the White House. 

“We may not be able to bring about straight repeal in the next two years, and we may not win every vote against targeted provisions, even though we should have bipartisan support for some,” McConnell said during a Thursday speech at the Heritage Foundation. “But we can compel administration officials to attempt to defend this indefensible health spending bill and other costly, government-driven measures, like the stimulus and financial reform."

Also complicating the repeal effort, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that scrapping the bill in full would cost about $100 billion over the next decade — money Republicans would have to offset or risk alienating the deficit-spending foes who came out en masse to the polls this year.

Meanwhile, Democrats are claiming the GOP's populist argument for repeal is a facade to disguise their true motivation: Rewarding the corporations that spent millions on Republican candidates this cycle. 

"Republicans have always been the party of putting big business over the middle class, and they are wasting no time in trying to jam through favors for big corporations at the expense of hard-working families who are struggling to make ends meet," Manley said. 

"If Republicans think the American people want to go back to giving insurance companies free rein to impose their abusive practices on middle-class families and seniors, then they are truly out of touch with the middle class."