Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says he would be willing to repeal Obamacare with a simple majority if he takes over as majority leader in January, his spokesman told the Washington Examiner on Thursday.
The announcement comes just days before Tuesday's midterm congressional election, in which Republicans have a strong chance of seizing the upper chamber from the Democrats and putting the Kentucky senator in charge.
"Leader McConnell is and has always been committed to the full repeal of Obamacare, and he'll continue to lead efforts to repeal and replace it with patient-centered reforms that enable greater choice at lower costs. He knows it won't be easy, but he also believes that if Republicans are fortunate enough to take back the majority we’ll owe it to the American people to try through votes on full repeal, the bill’s most onerous provisions, and reconciliation,” McConnell spokesman Brian McGuire wrote in an emailed statement.
Reconciliation is a parliamentary maneuver that allows legislation to be passed without needing the usual 60 votes to overcome blockage by a filibuster.
The question of how far Republicans are willing to go to fight Obamacare now that the law is providing benefits to millions of Americans will be one of the top issues confronting the party should they take the majority in the midterm elections.
McConnell drew headlines on Tuesday when he said on Fox News when asked about fully repealing Obamacare that, "It would take 60 votes in the Senate, and no one thinks we’re going to have 60 Republicans.” He added, “And it would take a president — presidential signature. And no one thinks we're going to get that.”
A number of people took the comment to mean that he wouldn’t be willing to use a tool known as “reconciliation” to attempt to repeal the law. Though legislation typically requires 60 votes in the Senate to stave off a filibuster by the minority, the rules allow for budget-related items to be passed through a reconciliation process that requires a simple 51-vote majority.
Democrats used the procedure to help get Obamacare across the congressional finish line in 2010 after passing the underlying bill with 60 votes in 2009. It remains an open question as to how much of the law could be repealed through the complicated reconciliation process. For instance, the law’s spending provisions could probably be repealed this way, but regulations that aren’t directly related to the budget likely couldn’t be.