Pressure on McConnell to deliver ObamaCare repeal – The Hill
The majority leader has drawn high marks in recent years for his ability to keep the Senate GOP conference unified, but that discipline has been shattered by the divisive healthcare debate.
Conservatives have at times challenged McConnell’s leadership over the years, but now those complaints are spreading to different corners of the conference.
Last week, McConnell got into a heated exchange with moderate Sen. Rob PortmanRob PortmanPressure on McConnell to deliver ObamaCare repeal Cruz plan could be key to unlocking healthcare votes Five changes GOP might make to healthcare bill MORE (R-Ohio), a close ally who has major concerns about Medicaid cuts in the legislation.
Other members, such as Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamPressure on McConnell to deliver ObamaCare repeal McCain, Warren, Graham visit troops in Afghanistan for 4th of July Pelosi criticizes ‘violent imagery’ in Trump’s CNN tweet MORE (R-S.C.), question the wisdom of pushing through a bill that only one out of three Republicans approve of, according to one recent poll.
Conservatives such as Sens. Mike LeeMike LeePressure on McConnell to deliver ObamaCare repeal Cruz plan could be key to unlocking healthcare votes Five changes GOP might make to healthcare bill MORE (R-Utah) and Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonPressure on McConnell to deliver ObamaCare repeal Is it time to repeal, replace and reform… the filibuster? Senate GOP pressures budget refs for better score on ObamaCare replacement MORE (R-Wis.), meanwhile, have complained about being shut out of the process.
Sen. John McCainJohn McCainPressure on McConnell to deliver ObamaCare repeal McCain, Warren, Graham visit troops in Afghanistan for 4th of July Time for the US to modernize its approach to Russia MORE (R-Ariz.) says his leader erred by skipping committee hearings and markups on the legislation.
“What we need to do in my view is what I’ve been saying all along. Go through the regular order. Have the hearings, have witnesses, have the administration come up and say, ‘Here is our proposal,’ ” he said.
If the healthcare bill fails, these criticisms will likely come to the fore when the party and the press conduct their post-mortems.
A spokesperson for McConnell declined to respond publicly to the criticisms.
But other Republicans have come to his defense.
One Senate GOP aide said that Lee, Johnson and McCain have had more input by participating in the more than 30 meetings McConnell has held with the Republican conference to craft the bill than had it gone through committee hearings and markups.
“Everybody will be at the table,” McConnell pledged on May 9.
The aide said that it’s contradictory for Lee and Johnson to complain about lack of ability to shape the bill when they blocked it from coming up for debate last week.
Another aide said “getting a bill on the floor gives members more of a say through an amendment process.”
A McConnell ally who is not authorized to speak for the leader pushed back against the criticism, arguing that McConnell had no choice but to handle negotiations behind closed doors and on a speedy schedule because it took the House months to pass its bill.
“The inability of the House to pass its own bill early on delayed Senate consideration of this considerably,” the source said. “It made it very difficult for McConnell to have the open-ended, freewheeling consideration of this that people are now claiming we should have had.”
One of McConnell’s top priorities is keeping track of Senate floor time and making sure that other important priorities, such as tax reform, raising the debt ceiling and reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program don’t get crowded off the schedule.
If McConnell can pass ObamaCare repeal, the criticism will melt away, and his reputation as Washington’s savviest dealmaker will be bolstered.