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Will Obama be able to force the bill through before Easter?
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned Congressional Democrats that rushing a vote on President Obama’s latest healthcare plan won’t put the issue behind them. McConnell said a vote on Obamacare would put the issue ahead of the Dems: that they’d face an unusual national referendum on Obamacare in November.
The senator spoke in response to President Obama’s appeal for Congress to stop debating and pass his health care proposal with an “up-or-down” vote.
“I don’t see how another year of negotiations would help,” the President added Wednesday, in a White House address. The President did not specifically reference the possible usage of reconciliation to pass the bill, noted ABC News White House correspondent Jake Tapper, but Reuters reported that the Democrats are indeed planning to use reconciliation to pass the legislation.
Sen. McConnell made reconciliation – the filibuster-proof budget rule Obama wants to use to get the bill through the Senate – a key issue in his response to President Obama’s address. He believed that the Senate using such a controversial practice to pass the controversial legislation would be sharply reputed by the populace in the fall elections.
The senator noted two separate times when the process was used to pass a bill without bipartisan support, and contrary to the desires of the American people: the Democrats’ tax increase in 1993, and the Republicans’ passage of the Deficit Reduction Act in 2005, which reduced the rate of increase in Medicare.
Both times it was used, Sen. McConnell continued, Congress switched parties the following year. Reconciliation had been used on a “narrowly partisan basis by each side, and we know what happened the next year,” he added.
“People don’t want it passed,” he said of the health care proposal. “It’s overwhelmingly unpopular.”
“This is an extraordinary use of [reconciliation] in order to sort of get this past a public that is overwhelmingly opposed to it.”
When asked why the Democrats would be so intent on passing the legislation if, as McConnell had noted, the American people were so against it, he replied that he had no full answer.
“Democrats can read polls as well as you can. If the public is so overwhelmingly against this, why do you think they’re pushing this bill?” a reporter asked the senator.
“It’s a stunning thing,” McConnell answered. “I am hard-pressed to answer that question.”
Sen. McConnell referenced the recent election of Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) as representative of the general disposition of Americans toward the health care legislation. He then added that President Obama and the Democratic leadership are still willing to pass the legislation in the face of general public opposition.
“I don’t think there’s a Democrat in the House of Representatives or the Senate who fails to understand that the American people are not for this,” Sen. McConnell emphatically noted.
Key issues in the President’s health care proposal which McConnell opposed included $500 billion in Medicaid cuts, $500 billion in new taxes, and increases in spending over the next 10 years.
He also noted that deals within the bill might prevent it from passing the House. “I’m not going to assume that this thing is going to pass the House,” he said. McConnell added that House Democrats will “be called upon to vote on a bill that has the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, the Gator Aid, and all the rest.”
If the bill does pass both the House and Senate, and becomes law, the senator said that Republicans would indeed make it a pressing issue in the fall elections.
“I think virtually all Republican candidates will say cutting Medicare by a half-trillion dollars, raising a half-trillion dollars in taxes, and starting a new spending program that costs 2.5 trillion dollars is something they would not have supported.”