Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) talked to a local reporter this week about the Affordable Care Act, which he described as the “single worst piece of legislation passed in the last 50 years in the country.” The Republican senator restated his position that “we need to get rid of” the law.
But McConnell also made an off-hand comment that seemed wholly uninteresting at the time: “I mean, there are a handful of things in the 2,700 page bill that probably are OK, but that doesn’t warrant a 2,700 page takeover of all American health care.”
In 2013, with the right’s hysteria over health care seemingly getting worse, the comments are apparently controversial.
In an ordinary political environment, McConnell’s remarks would hardly be newsworthy…. But the political environment surrounding Obamacare is anything but ordinary – with the ferocious Republican assault on the bill, the party’s exaggerated warnings that it will ruin American freedom, and the base’s determination to scrap every last bit of it. So McConnell’s remarks quickly became fodder for his conservative primary challenger, Matt Bevin, who accused the GOP leader’s of “flip-flop[ping] on repealing Obamacare in its entirety.”
“We have to do whatever it takes to repeal Obamacare, and if we can’t repeal it, we have a responsibility to the American people to defund it,” Bevin said in a statement Thursday, responding to McConnell’s remarks. “If Mitch McConnell had ever worked in the private sector, he might understand that. If Senator McConnell is not willing to act to end Obamacare, he needs to get out of the way.”
So let me get this straight. For reasons that have never really made any sense, McConnell described “Obamacare” as the “single worst piece of legislation passed in the last 50 years in the country.” He vowed to “get rid of” the law. He condemned it (falsely) as a “takeover of all American health care.”
And for some Republicans, this position is too moderate and accommodating.
This is silly, but let’s not overlook the larger context: McConnell helped create this mess in the first place. If he’s annoyed by the inflexibility, the senator has no one to blame but himself.
I imagine McConnell was probably trying to offer himself a little general-election cover by saying “there are a handful of things in the 2,700 page bill that probably are OK.” The more the senator says he wants to destroy the entirety of the law – every letter of every page, no matter how effective or popular the idea – the more vulnerable he is to criticisms from the American mainstream.
Would McConnell take coverage away from young adults who can now stay on their family plans through age 26? Would he scrap protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions? Would he end tax breaks for small businesses? Would he end breaks for seniors on prescription medication? McConnell left himself an out – sure, there are some elements he can tolerate, but he still hates the law.
But McConnell is in a red-state primary fight, and it’s apparently a problem to say anything even remotely supportive of the dreaded “Obamacare.”
Sahil Kapur concluded, “That McConnell is being attacked for his remark illustrates the box Republicans have put themselves in while feeding conservatives’ greatest fears about the Affordable Care Act.” So true. GOP leaders, including McConnell, have to realize that they created this monster – they have spent years telling Republican activists and Republican media that “Obamacare” is a communist/fascist/Nazi takeover that will kill the elderly, destroy capitalism, and quite likely end civilization as we know it.
GOP leaders’ rhetoric has never made a lick of sense – Obamacare is a pretty moderate law, built around mainstream ideas that have traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support – but McConnell and his allies pushed this garbage anyway, in part to keep the Republican base fired up, and in part because it was good for fundraising.
And now Frankenstein has found that his monster is running out of control. Well, Mitch, you probably should have thought of that before.