McConnell: No decision on healthcare repeal vote before election

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said Friday no decision has been made about whether to push for another vote to repeal the healthcare reform law before the presidential election.

McConnell told reporters the question is being debated within his conference. 

“This has been an ongoing discussion within our conference,” McConnell said. “We’re thinking about it. We already know where everybody is. 

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“We’ve had the votes to oppose ObamaCare. We’ve had the votes to repeal Obamacare,” he added. “Every single Republican voted to oppose the law in the first place and repeal it later. We know where everybody is. It’s a matter still under discussion. We haven’t decided yet.”

The GOP leader has come under strong pressure in recent weeks from conservative groups, including Restore America’s Voice Foundation, to force another repeal vote.

McConnell offered an amendment to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the beginning of last year, and the Senate rejected it on a party-line vote. 

Some conservatives in the Senate, such as Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), want another vote on repeal before the election. 

Senate Republicans have devoted the last two weeks in March to criticizing the healthcare reform law, which they call “ObamaCare,” but have stopped short of pressing for a vote on full repeal. 

Ken Hoagland, chairman of Restore America’s Voice Foundation, said earlier this month that McConnell should resign his leadership position if he fails to push for another vote on full repeal. The Senate rejected full repeal by a vote of 51 to 47 in February of last year.

Hoagland softened his position after McConnell’s chief of staff vowed a full-fledged assault against the law this month. Republican senators have devoted press conferences and floor speeches to highlighting what they view as the law’s flaws.

The House voted Thursday to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board created by the law to reduce federal spending on healthcare. Republicans have criticized that panel as a government "rationing" board. 

Some Senate Republicans believe they should focus on demanding votes to repeal the law's most unpopular provisions. 

McConnell acknowledged Friday that two of the law’s reforms are popular with the public: the prohibition on insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions and the provision allowing children to stay on their parents' insurance policies until age 26.

“There are two things that test well and you’ll hear the Democrats talk about pre-existing conditions and the ability of young people to stay on their parents’ policies until they’re 26,” he said. “[If you] look in a 3,000-page bill, I’m not surprised there are a couple of things you’ll be able to point to.”

McConnell said Democrats “will make every effort to get the people convinced that this 3,000-page bill was all about those two things.”

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the healthcare law next week, two years after Congress passed it. The court is expected to rule on the law’s constitutionality this summer, putting the issue front and center during the presidential election.

McConnell has filed an amicus brief with the court supporting the challenge to the law.

The minority leader declined to say whether he would support an effort to preserve the ban on discrimination against preexisting conditions or the ability of young adults to stay on their family’s insurance plans if the Supreme Court struck down the entire law.

He said if the Supreme Court failed to rule against the individual mandate, which requires the uninsured to buy health plans with the help of federal subsidies, it would mean the end of constitutional limits on federal power. 

“If the court upholds that, could the federal government then order you to eat carrots? Could it order you to quit smoking? Could it order you to lose weight? Because all of those decisions you could make could arguably have an effect on the cost of health insurance for someone else,” he said.  

“It strikes me if this is permissible under the commerce clause, the Commerce Clause is essentially gone. That it’s meaningless and kind of a relic of ancient times,” he added.

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