Mitch McConnell, the soon-to-be anointed Senate majority leader, wants a “mulligan” on Obamacare, and he’s counting on the Supreme Court to give him one. For those who are not golfers, a “mulligan” is getting a second chance when a duffer hits a lousy tee shot. In this case, McConnell means Republicans want to tear up the Affordable Care Act and rewrite it in their own terms. But the Republican-controlled Congress will not have the power to achieve this, so it wants the Supreme Court’s right-wingers to do the dirty work for them.
“Who may ultimately take it down is the Supreme Court of the United States,” McConnell told an audience of corporate CEOs assembled by Murdock’s Wall Street Journal. In that event, McConnell explained, “I would assume that you could have a mulligan here, a major do-over of the whole thing.”
His cynical expectations seem to confirm the illegitimate power alliance elected Republicans have fashioned with the supposedly non-political Supreme Court justices. But McConnell tucked an awkward message in his comments—an admission of his own weakness.
Forget his blustery campaign vows to destroy the ACA, which McConnell falsely characterized as an effort to “Europeanize” American healthcare (too bad that’s not the case). McConnell is belatedly conceding the GOP still won’t have the votes to break Senate filibusters or to override Obama vetoes in House or Senate. Has Mighty Mitch begun to mellow?
Throughout the Obama era, he starred as the belligerent Senator No, uncompromising and grimly effective. He and his party smeared Obama relentlessly, both the person and his policies, often with latent racial coding. But McConnell told the captains of industry the only hope for unraveling Obamacare depends upon Chief Justice John Roberts and the Right Wing Five.
The political landscape for 2015 is not about a nicer Mitch, but about the utter reversal of political priorities confronting the triumphant Republican party. To put it crudely, Mitch McConnell is like the dog who caught the bus he was chasing. What’s he going to do with it? The reactionary factions in his backward-leaning party are eager for a grand ideological tear-down; but most folks are looking for shelter from the storm, not more chaos and upheaval.
I suspect Mitch McConnell recognizes this. That’s why he wants the Supreme Court to step up and take the blame for dismantling Obamacare. That’s why he is suggesting small-ball legislative tactics—unravel ACA one step at a time, repealing the medical devices tax or the thirty-hour-week coverage for small business workers or other unpopular provisions like the health-insurance tax and penalty. These issues might pose tough votes for Senate Democrats even if Obama intends to veto them.
McConnell’s first problem, however, is persuading the “red hots” in his own party to slow down. In their overwrought opposition, House Republicans “repealed” Obamacare something like fifty times (a free vote for them, since they knew their negative measures were not going anywhere). Trouble is, Republicans fell in love with their own propaganda. People “hate” Obamacare, don’t they? Isn’t that why Republicans won their big victory? Surely, the populace will cheer when the GOP slays this dreaded socialist monster.