IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

McConnell: Midterms will determine whether GOP tries to repeal ACA

Mitch McConnell just raised the stakes for the congressional midterm elections: if Republicans prevail, they'll go after the existing health care system.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, May 17, 2016. (Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, May 17, 2016.

With only three weeks remaining before Election Day, and early voting already underway across much of the country, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is trying a risky strategy: the GOP leader is talking candidly about his party's post-election plans.

A week ago, for example, McConnell spoke out against congressional oversight of Donald Trump's White House, dismissing presidential accountability as "presidential harassment." Earlier this week, the Kentucky Republican said he hopes to address the deficit he grew by cutting social-insurance programs like Medicare and Social Security.

And yesterday, the Senate GOP leader told Reuters that if his party can hold onto power after next month's congressional midterm elections, Republicans are likely to try again to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans could try again to repeal Obamacare if they win enough seats in U.S. elections next month, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday, calling a failed 2017 push to repeal the healthcare law a "disappointment." [...]He said, "If we had the votes to completely start over, we'd do it. But that depends on what happens in a couple weeks."

In "a couple of weeks," of course, are the nation's midterm elections.

In a separate interview with Bloomberg News, McConnell also expressed support for a GOP lawsuit that would gut protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions.

The fact that ACA repeal remains a Republican priority does not come as a surprise. Despite very recent GOP efforts to present themselves to voters as progressive health care advocates, Republicans are still largely defined by their contempt for "Obamacare" and its benefits. McConnell simply acknowledged out loud what's been obvious for a while: of course a Republican-led Congress and a Republican-led White House will again try to tear down the existing system.

What is surprising, however, is the risk McConnell is willing to take this close to the election.

Polls show strong public support for Congress serving as a check on Trump's presidency, but the Republican leader is speaking out against accountability. Polls show overwhelming support for Medicare and Social Security -- pillars of modern American public life -- and McConnell is endorsing cuts to the programs that would help finance unpopular tax breaks for the wealthy.

And there's ample evidence that the Affordable Care Act now enjoys fairly broad support -- it's more popular than the Republican Party and its tax plan, for example -- and there's little to suggest Americans are eager to see it repealed.

In other words, Election Day is just 20 days away, and one of Congress' top GOP leaders wants the electorate to know that a vote for Republicans is a vote for an exceedingly unpopular platform.

Maybe McConnell is trying to rile his party's far-right base. Maybe he's trying to lay the groundwork for some kind of electoral mandate. Maybe the senator assumes voters won't hear about any of this, so his candor will be inconsequential.

Whatever the motivation, McConnell is making the Democrats' case for them. Recent data shows health care is one of the nation's top issues -- by some measures, it's the #1 issue -- for voters this election season. One of Congress' top Republicans is nevertheless reminding the electorate that his party and the American mainstream are not on the same page.