McConnell sets up vote to repeal ObamaCare

McConnell sets up vote to repeal ObamaCare
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record Overnight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record Senate to vote Thursday to block Trump's Saudi arms deal 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 CruzGOP frets about Trump's poll numbers GOP frets about Trump's poll numbers GOP senator introduces bill to hold online platforms liable for political bias MORE (R-Texas), who shortly after McConnell spoke denounced the decision.

Bringing back the bank is important to vulnerable GOP Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkEx-GOP Sen. Kirk registers to lobby The global reality behind 'local' problems Dems vow swift action on gun reform next year 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.