Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has a plan. He hasn’t made the plan public, but behind closed doors he’s let other Republican lawmakers know his intentions. To the discerning public ear, his plans are coming through crystal clear. He intends to play it safe in 2018 and avoid issues that may contribute to the GOP losing control of the Senate.
Last week on NPR, McConnell laid out a populist approach to the upcoming legislative year. He heralded bipartisanship while pushing away from important controversial issues such as Medicaid, food stamps, and most importantly another attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants 2018 to be a year of bipartisanship, even if that means moving on from GOP dreams of cutting welfare and fully rolling back the Affordable Care Act.
The Kentucky Republican on Thursday broke with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on the approach to paring back spending on programs like Medicaid and food stamps. In an interview with NPR, McConnell said he is “not interested” in using Senate budget rules to allow Republicans to cut entitlements without consultation with Democrats.
He painted his reluctance to address the issue in terms of basic political math:
“Well, we obviously were unable to completely repeal and replace with a 52-48 Senate,. We’ll have to take a look at what that looks like with a 51-49 Senate. But I think we’ll probably move on to other issues.”
The reality is he’s not wanting to go into the midterm elections with the Democrats and their mainstream media partners complaining about lost insurance coverage in areas where seats are being contested on Capitol Hill. The two things he doesn’t want to tackle – Obamacare and welfare reform – are election losers in his opinion.
He is probably right about welfare reform, much to the chagrin of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan who has been pushing for entitlement reform since he was a freshman representative. As for Obamacare, he’s absolutely wrong. Here are three reasons why:
Following elimination of individual mandate, premiums will rise
The tax law zeroed out the tax penalty associated with not having healthcare, essentially eliminating the individual mandate for now. Republicans will herald the move while Democrats cook up numbers to show how millions “lost” their healthcare as a result, but it’s how the insurance companies react that will make the real waves.
Premiums will go up. It’s unavoidable without further action on Obamacare. The individual mandate is one of the few things keeping health insurance costs down. By forcing young, healthy Americans to pay for insurance they rarely use, insurance companies are able to mitigate some of the financial damage of other aspects of Obamacare such as mandatory coverage for preexisting conditions. By not forcing people to buy, insurance. companies will be forced to raise premiums and deductibles on everyone else.
It would be irresponsible to drop the mandate without cutting or completely eliminating Obamacare. Now more than ever, a new plan must be put into place that does not have an individual mandate but makes up the difference in ways that do not include spiking prices.
Democrats will use repeal-prevention as campaign ammunition
If McConnell thinks repealing and replacing Obamacare will cause his caucus election pains, he’s in for a surprise. The Democrats will invoke “protecting Obamacare from the GOP” in all of their campaigns. There was a time not so long ago when Americans could stomach losing Obamacare, but support for the ACA has steadily increased since the election.
McConnell will have to peel back a few more layers on his perceptions of Democratic campaign strategy if he wants to know what will hurt the GOP more : repealing Obamacare or giving Democrats the threat of a future Obamacare repeal.
Conservatives won’t stand for it
Republicans have been making the same promise for seven years: give us the House, Senate, and White House and we’ll take down Obamacare. They got their wish. Now, it’s time to deliver.
The shifting sentiment towards Obamacare might settle well with some Republicans, but conservatives won’t be as forgiving. The House Freedom Caucus is already preparing to push for it:
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., also said Obamacare repeal was “still on the table.” He said President Trump and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. — who helped spearhead his own repeal bill with Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La. — are still on board for repealing the healthcare law.
“I think he is probably just being pragmatic, knowing he has only got 51 votes,” said Meadows, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, in reference to McConnell’s comments.
If McConnell wants an easy button, he’ll need to help his party earn a 60-seat majority. Otherwise, it’s time to get an Obamacare repeal on the reconciliation table and make it happen as soon as possible. Waiting until after the election may mean we’re waiting for a very long time if they lose their majority.