Mitch McConnell says he’s committed to having a vote on delaying the individual mandate of Obamacare. “The individual mandate is the weakest part of this law,” said the Republican leader in a Friday interview with THE WEEKLY STANDARD. “We should just, like a prizefight, just keep punching the weakest spot here, repetitiously.”
His first jab came Thursday night, when the Kentucky Republican offered for debate a bill, combined from two bills passed in the House, to delay both the individual and employer mandates for a year. Democrats blocked the motion to consider the bill, but McConnell has used a Senate rule to place the bill on the Senate calendar for debate after the August recess.
Speaking with TWS, McConnell praised the House Republicans’ plan to hold votes on delaying or repealing the most damaging parts of Obamacare, as they already have with the mandates. And on Friday, the House passed a bill to prohibit the Internal Revenue Service from “implementing or enforcing” any part of Obamacare.
“I like the House strategy. I think it makes a lot of sense,” McConnell said, though he acknowledged some senators in the GOP conference hold divergent views.
“We may have some internal differences about tactics,” he said. "But make no mistake about it. From Susan Collins to Ted Cruz, we want to dismantle it."
But when it comes to defeating Obamacare, it’s with Cruz that McConnell is in disagreement. The freshman Texas senator is leading the charge to defund the health care law, attempting to attach an amendment to the upcoming continuing budget resolution that would strip the federal budget of any funds for implementing Obamacare. With such an amendment unlikely to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate, Cruz is seeking support among his Republican colleagues to block the continuing resolution if it does not defund Obamacare. The gambit risks a federal government shutdown, but Cruz says its the best opportunity for conservatives to dismantle Obamacare.
“If we don’t do it now, in all likelihood, we never will,” Cruz said earlier this week. “On January 1, the exchanges kick in and the subsidies kick in, and the Obama administration’s plan is very simple. It is to get as many Americans as they can addicted to the subsidies, addicted to the sugar, because they know that in modern times, no major entitlement, once it was implemented, has ever been unwound.”
Tom Coburn, Cruz’s Republican colleague from Oklahoma, has challenged the idea that Cruz’s strategy would actually accomplish what it sets out to do. The Washington Post reported on a Congressional Research Service report commissioned by Coburn’s office:
According to the report, the government could rely on both mandatory and discretionary funding during a shutdown to continue with implementation, and agencies could continue working despite lacking appropriations, under exceptions to the Antideficiency Act.
The report notes that the Social Security Administration continued working during the 1995 shutdown. The Treasury indicated that the Internal Revenue Service, which plays a vital role in Obamacare, would continue to operate when a shutdown loomed in 2011.
McConnell, for his part, says the Senate should take a more “sensible” approach of their House colleagues: to take on each destructive piece of Obamacare, one by one.
“Each of these pieces individually are toxic,” McConnell said. “Thirty-five House Democrats voted against the business mandate. Twenty-two House Democrats voted against the individual mandate.”
Rather than try to block a continuing resolution on the budget to defund Obamacare, could Senate Republicans use this fall’s budget debates to get concessions from Democrats on delaying the most toxic parts of the law?
“What I don’t want to do is tell you some final strategy out here,” McConnell said. “I’d like to get something consistent with Republican principles out of this leverage that we now have on spending reductions. And Obamacare would be a great place to start.”