- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 2, 2014

Mitch McConnell is days, perhaps weeks, away from knowing whether he could be leading a GOP-controlled Senate next year, but he’s already getting a taste of what it might be like for Republicans to run both chambers of Congress.

Conservatives started calling on Mr. McConnell last week to assure them that he is committed to his previous pledge of doing everything in his power to end Obamacare after he tried to downplay expectations of an outright repeal over the next two years.

“Reports say GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is planning to walk away from his commitment to repeal Obamacare, ‘root and branch,’ as he promised,” the conservative group ForAmerica said in a Facebook post. “Americans need to know the truth! Is repealing Obamacare a McConnell priority or just an empty campaign promise? CALL his office now and tell him to refute the charge and stand with conservatives!”

Other conservatives, including talk show host Mark Levin and the Senate Conservative Fund, also expressed doubt about whether Mr. McConnell is serious about repealing the law.

“Sen. McConnell is a political animal, obviously, so it is not that shocking that he might try to lower expectations,” said Kevin Broughton, spokesman for the Tea Party Patriots. “Still, we will hold him accountable on his pledge to repeal Obamacare.”

The backlash serves as a reminder of the pressure Mr. McConnell and House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, will be under from the various wings of the GOP if Republicans seize control of both chambers for the first time since 2006.

SEE ALSO: Obamacare sends health premiums skyrocketing by as much as 78 percent

Mr. Boehner has learned that the hard way in recent years.

The conservative and tea party-aligned wing of the party killed any attempts to move on immigration reform and forced him into a 16-day partial government shutdown that was aimed at defunding Obamacare.

Conservatives are now seeking assurance from Mr. McConnell that he will follow through on his promise to use the budget conciliation process — which only requires a 51 vote simple majority rather than 60 votes — to pass an Obamacare repeal.

“What he has said, whether it is on [the] national revel or speeches everywhere, is he has the power [of] reconciliation [and] to do it with 51 votes,” said Brent Bozell, head of ForAmerica. “Did he or didn’t he mean it?”

Mr. Bozell stopped short of saying Mr. McConnell should respond to a veto from the White House by shutting down the government in hopes of making Mr. Obama cave.

“I am not sure that I want to go there,” he said. “I shouldn’t speculate there, however, what is a foregone conclusion is [that] the Republican Party can, at the very least, officially present the president with a bill repealing Obamacare, which is what the public wants. If the president vetoes it, let there be a public conservation. That is democracy.”

SEE ALSO: Most Americans say politics behind Obamacare rollout delay: poll

Mr. Broughton, though, suggested that Mr. McConnell should be willing to go to the mat on the issue.

“If you are not willing to pull out all the stops, how committed can you truly be to the repeal of Obamacare?” he said.

For his part, Mr. McConnell’s office said the lawmaker has been — and is — committed to ending Obamacare, including through the reconciliation process.

Days away from the election, conservatives appear poised to add to their numbers in the GOP-controlled House and in the Senate, where Republicans are well positioned to win a majority, and Mr. McConnell is in line to lead the chamber.

The concern about Mr. McConnell’s stance on Obamacare spiked this week after he suggested on Fox that the party’s ultimate goal of repealing the Affordable Care Act could be out of reach even if Republicans pick up the six seats, net, they need in the midterms to flip control of the Senate.

“Well, it would take 60 votes in the Senate. No one thinks we are going to have 60 Republicans. And it would take a presidential signature, and no one thinks we can get that. So the question is what can you do about it?” Mr. McConnell said.

He said the next best move would be to force Democrats to take tough votes on some of the most popular provisions of the law, including the medical device tax.

Former Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, a Republican, said that Mr. McConnell is trying to manage expectations.

“Even if you do reconciliation, you still need the signature of the president — that is the reality,” Mr. Davis said. “Managing expectations is the hardest part of governance. If you can’t manage expectations, everything else is lost.

“McConnell is saying, ‘We will at best control one branch,’” Mr. Davis said. “So let’s keep our expectations in line with what we can get accomplished. I think you have some people and groups [who] have some vested interest in trying to overmanage expectations and act like they are tough, but they don’t really have a logical path to get what they want.”

On his radio show Thursday, Mr. Levin hammered Mr. McConnell, saying he is taking the “Mickey Mouse” approach, and that his commitments mean “nothing.”

“I want to know, is anyone going to hold this man to account — as he is on his way to re-election, as he is one his way to becoming the Republican leader in the Senate?” Mr. Levin said. “Because it is clear that he has no intention to use 51 votes in the new Republican majority if they get it to repeal Obamacare. If Mitch McConnell can say we want to put the worst aspects of this bill on the president’s desk for political reasons, why doesn’t he put the whole damn thing on his desk for political reasons?”

Ken Cuccinelli, head of the Senate Conservative Fund, said “conservatives are not convinced that Mitch McConnell is serious about sending a bill to the president’s desk that fully repeals Obamacare.”

“If he was, he would not have surrendered earlier this week and said it takes 60 votes when that’s clearly not true. Republicans ran on repealing Obamacare, and they need to keep their word,” he said. “

“The constitutional power of the purse is something McConnell said he’d use earlier this year to stop the president’s liberal agenda. We assume he was referring to Obamacare since he’s run millions of dollars of campaign ads attacking it.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide