The GOP can’t agree on exactly how they should reform the Affordable Care Act, and despite having the majority and putting plenty of man hours into the problem, the party hasn’t found a workable, popular healthcare plan that seems likely to pass. There are seemingly endless factors to consider, from the tax increases tied to the ACA to what features the new Better Care Reconciliation Act should look like to how this fits in with the Trump administration’s broader budget. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is staying upbeat as he tries to lead the GOP to a consensus— to him, these challenges are merely the sort of hurdles necessary for greatness.
On Friday, Trump took a brief break from his flurry of Twitter attacks on Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski of Morning Joe to reiterate his belief that the GOP priority should be repealing Obamacare at all costs.
McConnell is against that plan of repealing first and replacing later. That’s the message he took to a crowd of Republicans in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, where he made it clear that he is guiding the Senate towards passing healthcare reform in one fell swoop. “We are going to stick with that path,” he told the crowd. For McConnell’s plan to work, Republicans would have to resign themselves to keeping some of the ACA’s tax hikes, and they would also have to convince Nevada Senator Dean Heller to fall out of rank with the President on the issue of repealing first and replacing later.
The BCRA needs 51 votes to pass, and the odds of that happening could be as low as 1 in 5, according to a GOP strategist close to the issue. McConnell told the press that the Senate is still “trying to figure out how to twist the dials to get to 50 to replace this with something better. That’s going to be a challenge with some of the most powerful figures in the Republican Party refusing to vote for the latest iteration of the BCRA. Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul are among the nine GOP senators who oppose the draft presently on the table. No Democrats support the bill, either.
The clock is ticking. The vote was delayed until after the July 4 recess, giving everyone time to mull over the particulars. It’s not only that lawmakers can’t agree on which tax increases tied to the ACA should be kept, or what should be done about Medicare and Medicaid, or the other specifics of what to roll back and what to slot in. There is also the pressure of the looming 2018 elections, as constituents call to express their concerns about the BCRA and protestors line up outside Senators’ offices. Those lawmakers with contested seats are very aware of what it could cost them if they end up on the wrong side of this issue.
But Mitch McConnel knows where he stands. “Failure has to be possible or you can’t have success,” he told the Elizabethtown crowd, making this all sound like a feat of daring do. His keystone line might mollify the president as much as rally the support of his base. “It’s not easy making America great again, is it?” Not if there’s such wide disagreement about what exactly “great” looks like.