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McConnell sets up vote to repeal ObamaCare

McConnell sets up vote to repeal ObamaCare
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers feel pressure on guns Bipartisan group of House lawmakers urge action on Export-Import Bank nominees Curbelo Dem rival lashes out over immigration failure MORE (R-Ky.) has set up a vote to repeal ObamaCare in a bid to appease conservatives upset over a second planned vote to revive the Export-Import Bank.

McConnell on Friday announced he would file cloture — a motion to end a filibuster — on amendments to fully repeal ObamaCare and to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank. Both votes likely will take place Sunday.

McConnell argued that taking votes on both amendments offered a "balanced" way forward. 
 
"Ex-Im shouldn't be the only vote we take on this bill, and under the compromise I just filed, it won't be. That's a much fairer way forward," he said, adding that Republicans will "continue to fight for" a repeal of ObamaCare.

The Export-Import Bank is staunchly opposed by conservatives, including presidential candidate Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Health Care: Trump eases rules on insurance outside ObamaCare | HHS office on religious rights gets 300 complaints in a month | GOP chair eyes opioid bill vote by Memorial Day HHS official put on leave amid probe into social media posts Trump, Pence to address CPAC this week MORE (R-Texas), who shortly after McConnell spoke denounced the decision.

Bringing back the bank is important to vulnerable GOP Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkHigh stakes as Trump heads to Hill Five things to watch for at Trump-Senate GOP meeting Giffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns MORE (Ill.), one of the Democrats’ top targets in 2016, whom McConnell wants to help win reelection.

Democrats have insisted that the six-year highway deal McConnell negotiated with liberal Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) include the Ex-Im Bank reauthorization.

McConnell has often said he personally opposes reauthorizing the bank, an agency panned by conservatives as a tool of corporate welfare.

He plans to file cloture to repeal ObamaCare and renew the bank’s charter after offering the highway bill on the Senate floor Friday.

The chamber began voting at 9 a.m. on Friday to begin the highway debate. 

Democrats criticized McConnell for using a procedural tactic known as "filling the tree" that prevents other amendments from being offered. When McConnell was in the minority, he frequently complained when then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) used the tactic.

"Did I just hear the legislative tree being filled?" Reid joked on Friday. "I can answer that question."

He suggested that Republicans need to move on from their focus on repealing the healthcare law. 
 
"I hope the Senate doesn't catch up with the House with how many times they're going to try to repeal that," he said, adding that "critics are stubbornly ignoring reality." 
 
This story was updated at 10:03 a.m.
 
Jordain Carney contributed to this story.