McConnell vows full-fledged assault on health law amid threat to his leadership

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said he's committed to repealing President Obama's healthcare reform law after a conservative group threatened to go for his head over the issue.

The Hill reported Thursday that McConnell told his conference this week that he does not want to vote again on repealing the law until after the November elections. In response, the conservative Restore America's Voice Foundation said it would “unleash” its 2.3 million activists to call for McConnell's resignation if he didn't retract his comments.

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“Leader McConnell not only is an unapologetic advocate for the complete repeal of ObamaCare, he authored the repeal amendment and forced a vote on it at the beginning of this Congress,” McConnell spokesman Don Stewart told The Hill after the Restore America's Voice Foundation said he should resign his leadership post if he doesn't have “the will or the backbone to force a floor vote” on repeal.

“The leader is discussing with his colleagues how best to raise the profile of this unconstitutional law as the nation turns its focus to the anniversary of the law and the Supreme Court case later this month.”

Ken Hoagland, the chairman of the foundation, said McConnell's chief of staff spoke with him for 20 minutes by phone after the threat was issued and vowed to make March “Repeal ObamaCare Month.” Hoagland said his group was taking a “trust but verify” approach and would unleash TV ads and petitions asking for McConnell to step down as minority leader unless he shows he's serious about repeal. 

"He has to look for opportunities to bring amendments to the floor," Hoagland said.

A senior GOP aide said Senate Republicans have planned a public-relations campaign this month to highlight the need to repeal the controversial healthcare law. The aide said the campaign has been in the planning phase for weeks. 


It is intended to coincide with the two-year anniversary of Congress passing the law and a hearing the Supreme Court will hold in late March prior to ruling on its constitutionality. House Republicans told The Hill last week that they were teeing up bills to repeal parts of the law this month, including its birth-control mandate and the cost-cutting panel that Republicans call a “rationing board.”

Senate Republicans will deliver floor speeches this month calling for repeal of the law and highlighting what they view as its negative impact on the economy. Lawmakers will also seek to book radio and television interviews to publicize their arguments.

No decisions, however, have been made on holding additional votes on repealing the entire law because the Senate Republican Conference is split on the best tactical approach, according to a senior GOP aide.

McConnell authored an amendment to repeal the entire bill, which the Senate rejected by a 51-47 party-line vote in February 2011. 

Some Republican senators worry that voting again on repeal will give vulnerable Democratic senators a chance to change their positions and vote against the controversial statute. That would give them political cover before the November election, without any risk of reaching the 60-vote threshold for the repeal bill to actually pass.

But Hoagland said that's a risk worth taking. He said getting more than 50 votes for repeal in the Senate would demonstrate that Obama is sticking by a law that a majority of citizens, congressmen and senators disapprove of.

"They might be gaining cover, but they'd be exposing [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid [D-Nev.] and Barack Obama," he told The Hill. "It makes it clear to voters in November that they're being ignored."

Hoagland said Obama only talked about the law for some 10 seconds in his State of the Union address in January, proof in his eyes that the White House is hiding from a law that remains unpopular with a majority of Americans two years after its passage.

"We're not going to let them stop talking about it," Hoagland said.