- The Washington Times - Friday, October 31, 2014

Mitch McConnell is days away from knowing whether he will be leading a GOP-controlled Senate for the next two years, but the Kentucky lawmaker is already getting a taste of what it might be like for Republicans to run both chambers of Congress.

Conservatives are seeking assurance from Mr. McConnell that he remains committed to do everything in his power to end President Obama’s health care law, after he warned this week that even if the GOP takes over the Senate the odds — at least for the next two years — are against an outright repeal.

“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!”

Conservative talk show host Mark Levin and the Senate Conservative Fund also said they are doubtful whether Mr. McConnell is serious about repealing the law.

The preemptive strike 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.

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, a move that fell far short of its goal.

Conservatives are now seeking assurance from Mr. McConnell that he will follow through on a previous promise to use the budget reconciliation process — which only requires a 51-vote simple majority, rather than 60 votes — to pass an Obamcare repeal in the Senate.

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

Mr. Bozell stopped short of saying that Mr. McConnell should respond to a veto from President Obama by shutting down the government.

“I am not sure that I want to go there,” he said. “… However, what is a foregone conclusion is what the Republican Party can do at the very least is 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 conversation. That is democracy.”

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

Polls suggest conservatives appear poised to add to their numbers in the GOP-controlled House and in the Senate on Tuesday. Mr. McConnell is in line to lead the chamber, replacing Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada.

The concerns about Mr. McConnell and Obamacare spiked this week after he suggested on Fox News that the party’s ultimate goal of repealing the Affordable Care Act could be out of reach even if Republicans pick up the net six seats 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 the tax on medical devices.

Conservative frustrations

Former Virginia GOP Rep. Tom Davis said that Mr. McConnell is trying to manage expectations for conservatives bitterly frustrated by Mr. Reid’s ability to block their agenda in recent years.

“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 over-manage 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 the Senate minority, saying Mr. McConnell’s 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 on 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.”

Ken Cuccinelli, head of the Senate Conservative Fund, said that “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.”

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