The White House is making sure Affordable Care Act repeal remains a thing Republicans are running on in the last eight weeks of the 2018 campaign, leaving the Republicans actually running in an impossible spot. They can’t chance further freaking out voters by saying that repeal is imminent, but they have to keep promising it to keep the base frothed up.
Even with former Sen. Jon Kyl, who’s filling Sen. John McCain’s seat for the interim, saying he’s gung-ho for repeal, there is no fervor for doing it in the Senate or the House. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the number two guy who is in charge of whipping votes says “I’m not going to be asking for another vote on that this year,” and the whip in the House, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) says, “We need to win this election and then get more seats next year.” Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) remain opposed, though that’s probably a pointless stance from them if they end up voting for Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court.
As for leadership, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan both pretend like it’s the farthest things from their mind. McConnell says the decision over something “I don’t have to reach anytime soon and don’t have time to facilitate, even if I was so inclined,” and Ryan says “I haven’t even thought about it.” Right. That’s totally believable. Ryan is probably just relieved that he won’t have to be dealing with it again from inside the House, as he’s retiring this year.
The other part is that they know they’ll have to be dealing with a fight with Trump over border wall funding again. They might be able to get him to hold off on shutting down government over the wall before the election but it’s an inevitable fight. They are going to have to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government open after September 30, and will not be able to pass one that runs into next year. That means another shutdown fight with Trump, probably before Christmas if bad congressional tradition holds. They actually won’t have time for doing Obamacare repeal—they’ll be too busy trying to slash Medicare and Medicaid in those weeks.
But next year! That’s the well they are just going to keep going back to to get their dwindling rabid base to the polls. The promise that if they’re elected, Obamacare will be history. They just can’t say that too loudly in mixed company, because it will mean the kiss of death for them.
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