Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested Wednesday that Republicans would take another stab at repealing the Affordable Care Act after the midterms, saying in an interview that "we’re not satisfied with the way ObamaCare is working.”
McConnell, who in the past two years has overseen the appointment of a record-setting number of federal judges and justices, and the passage of a broad tax reform bill, acknowledged that Republicans' failed effort to repeal ObamaCare in 2017 remained a major "disappointment" of his tenure.
“If we had the votes to completely start over, we’d do it," McConnell, R-Ky., told Reuters. "But that depends on what happens in a couple weeks."
Republicans hold a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate, and recent Fox News polling shows the GOP gaining momentum in several key races as it looks to expand its majority there. However, House races are tougher ground for Republicans this year, and any effort to repeal ObamaCare would again need the support of a majority in that chamber, too.
ObamaCare has emerged as a major issue in several swing-state races. In Missouri, for example, Fox News polling shows that incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and Republican challenger Josh Hawley are neck-and-neck -- and health care could ultimately decide the winner.
"Josh Hawley decided to use your taxpayer dollars to file a lawsuit that would take away important prescription drug coverage for seniors through Medicare and end all of the consumer protections under the ACA — including protections for Missourians with pre-existing conditions such as asthma, high blood pressure, cancer or diabetes," McCaskill wrote in an op-ed earlier this year, referring to a lawsuit Hawley signed onto that would legally invalidate ObamaCare.
Even Republicans who have said they want to get rid of the Obama health care plan have suggested they want to find a way to keep its ban on insurers denying coverages based on pre-existing conditions -- which Democrats have hammered as a fundamental inconsistency adopted for naked political convenience.
“Entitlements are the long-term drivers of the debt," McConnell told Reuters.
"Entitlements are the long-term drivers of the debt."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, sought to use McConnell's remarks to rally the Democratic base with just weeks to go before the midterms.
“If Republicans retain the Senate, they will do everything they can to take away families’ health care and raise their costs,” Schumer said in a statement. “Americans should take Senator McConnell at his word.”
Democrats have argued that Republicans’ whittling away of ObamaCare has resulted in escalating premium costs.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said ObamaCare premiums are projected to increase next year by an average 15 percent, in part because of the Republican-led repeal of the law’s individual mandate. The mandate imposed a tax penalty on Americans who failed to buy health insurance.
Last summer, the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., dramatically arrived on the Senate floor and gave a thumbs down on a vote to repeal ObamaCare, decisively killing the measure.
President Trump fiercely criticized McCain for months afterward, even as the senator's health was failing. McCain remained a senator until his death from brain cancer in August.
"He campaigned on repealing and replace, we had all the votes, and perhaps he was grandstanding, who knows what he was doing? But you know what? He said, ‘No, no,'" Trump said at a rally earlier his year. "Everybody said: ‘What the hell happened?’ He’s been campaigning for eight years — repeal and replace. And he didn’t do that.”
Fox News' Joseph Weber contributed to this report.