Even with repeal, 'Obamacare' will be hard to unwind, McConnell says


by Joe Arnold


Posted on July 3, 2012 at 12:18 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 3 at 12:18 AM

ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky (WHAS11) -- In his first Kentucky comments since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that even if "Obamacare" is repealed, the health care law will not easily go away.

"If you thought it was a good idea for the federal government to go in this direction, I'd say the odds are still on your side," McConnell told workers at Hardin Memorial Hospital, "because it's a lot harder to undo something than it is to stop it in the first place."

Yet, McConnell is still calling for the repeal, calling it a "mega issue" of the general election.

"I don't think there is any bigger issue in the fall election except for the general effect of the economy," McConnell said to several reporters after the hospital appearance, "which this has contributed to making so poor."

President Obama's Supreme Court victory on Thursday came with a road map for Republican plans to reverse the law.

Because Chief Justice John Roberts ruled the law constitutional under Congress' taxing authority, McConnell said Congress can use that same power to roll back the tax, explaining that process would take a simple majority, not a 60 vote super majority.

"The Chief Justice has made it clear, it's a tax," McConnell said.  "That's the last word.  It's a tax.  That's appropriate for the Senate to consider with 51 votes."

McConnell's embrace of the taxation definition is at odds with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whose campaign on Monday agreed with the Obama administration's stance that the government will impose a penalty, and not a tax, on people who fail to purchase health insurance.

As governor of Massachusetts, Romney spearheaded a policy that also included penalties under similar circumstances.  

McConnell told the hospital workers that while Romney's policy was an acceptable exercise of a state's prerogative, the Obama policy was an overreach by the federal government.

"I didn't say it was appropriate," McConnell responded when asked  to explain the difference.  "I said it was (Romney's) decision.  A state can do it legally.  There's no question that a state can do this legally if they choose to.  The question before the court was whether the federal government could.  And, they actually said you couldn't under the Commerce Clause, but you could with tax power."

In Shelbyville, fellow Senate Republican Rand Paul expressed concern about the judicial branch granting any more taxing power to Congress.

"I think it's an important battle still that goes on whether or not Congress is limited by certain proscriptions within the constitution," Paul lamented.  "And I think this gets away from that.  And, I think that's why it's a really bad decision."

Yet, Paul agreed that the Supreme Court decision will galvanize Republican voters.

"I think it emboldens the conservative base," Paul told WHAS11.  "It emboldens the Tea Party.  I think you start to see bigger crowds again accumulating.  I think Governor Romney has said that he would give a 50 state waiver immediately, day one.  I think it will be a rallying cry."

Asked what he would do to improve health care access in place of "Obamacare," McConnell said the key is to make health care more affordable.  He suggested increased competition among health insurance companies across state lines and a reduction in legal costs of medical practitioners through tort reform.

Those suggestions, however, do not address a central tenet of the health care law, which brings into the fold an estimated 30 million Americans who do not have health insurance.

While the Republican Leader has said that individual states can facilitate high risk pools for the uninsured and those with pre-existing conditions, only 35 states currently offer such a program.

Asked about the remainder, McConnell told WHAS11 that voters should insist that individual states tackle the issue.

"I think the people are going to demand high-risk pools in all the states," McConnell said.  "That's what happens in a political process.  There's a need and people run for office with a promise to fill that need.  And, that's the way to do it."

Though a recent Associated-Press poll showed that only 33 percent of Americans support the health care law while 47 percent of Americans oppose it, Democrats appear confident in other poll results which show Americans more supportive of individual provisions of the law, such as providing insurance coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.

Asked if the GOP wants to run on a platform of taking something away that President Obama has secured, McConnell didn't blink.

"Sure," the senator replied.  "We're going to take away the half trillion dollars in Medicare cuts, take away the $500 billion in new taxes, (we'll) be happy to take that away."
"I don't think anybody likes any of that," McConnell continued, "This Obamacare law is extremely unpopular and I think it's important to have a referendum on it.  The Chief Justice in his decision said it would be up to the American people to make this decision. That's why we have elections.  We have one on the first Tuesday in November."

The U.S. House is scheduled to vote on the repeal next week.  The Democrat controlled Senate, however, is not expected to consider it.  The House vote puts all members on the record four months before the election.