McConnell says Senate Republicans might
revisit Obamacare repeal
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[October 18, 2018]
By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans could
try again to repeal Obamacare if they win enough seats in U.S. elections
next month, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday,
calling a failed 2017 push to repeal the healthcare law a
In a forecast of 2019 policy goals tempered by uncertainty about who
would win the congressional elections, McConnell blamed social programs,
such as Social Security and Medicare, for the fast-rising national debt.
On Nov. 6, Americans will vote for candidates for the Senate and the
House of Representatives.
McConnell's Republicans now hold majority control of both chambers.
Democrats will try to wrest control in races for all 435 House seats and
one-third of the 100 Senate seats.
Despite their dominance of Congress and the White House, Republicans
failed last year to overturn former President Barack Obama's signature
healthcare law, known as Obamacare. McConnell called it "the one
disappointment of this Congress from a Republican point of view."
He said, "If we had the votes to completely start over, we'd do it. But
that depends on what happens in a couple weeks ... We're not satisfied
with the way Obamacare is working."
McConnell's comments drew a sharp reaction from Senate Democratic leader
Chuck Schumer and other Democrats, who have sought to portray the
Republican healthcare effort as an attack on the middle class.
"If Republicans retain the Senate they will do everything they can to
take away families' health care and raise their costs," Schumer said in
a statement. "Americans should take Senator McConnell at his word."
President Donald Trump favors ending Obamacare, which Republicans
criticized as a costly and unneeded intrusion on Americans' healthcare.
About 20 million Americans have received health insurance coverage
through the program, a landmark legislative achievement for Obama and
On social programs, McConnell said in an interview with Reuters,
"Entitlements are the long-term drivers of the debt."
Social programs that help the poor, the aged, the unemployed, veterans
and the disabled are often referred to as "entitlements" in Washington.
These also include Medicaid.
"We all know that there will be no solution to that, short of some kind
of bipartisan grand bargain that makes the very, very popular
entitlement programs be in a position to be sustained. That hasn't
happened since the '80s," McConnell said.
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks during an
interview with Reuters in Washington, U.S., October 17, 2018.
"But at some point we will have to sit down on a bipartisan basis
and address the long-term drivers of the debt."
Trump's top budget official, Mick Mulvaney, said in an interview
with Fox News Channel that what had the big impact in pushing up the
deficit this year was discretionary spending, including hurricane
"Social Security and Medicare are a challenge to the deficit several
years out. Right now, they're actually not what's driving the
deficit this year," Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management
and Budget, said.
The Treasury Department this week reported a 2018 budget deficit of
$779 billion, the highest since 2012.
The report cited higher military spending as a reason for the
increase and showed government revenues were flat after deep tax
cuts pushed through late last year by Republicans, despite a growing
economy and rising spending levels.
McConnell said Republicans would take a hard look at funding for
discretionary domestic programs next year, saying he reluctantly
agreed to increased discretionary spending this year to get
Democrats to accept more military spending.
"We had to negotiate with the Democrats and spend more on the
domestic side than I would have preferred," McConnell said.
"We'll have to sit down again and decide what we're going to do with
our annual discretionary spending after the first of the year and
see what kind of agreements we can reach."
Trump on Wednesday asked his cabinet for proposals to cut their
budgets by five percent.
(Reporting by David Morgan. Additional reporting by David Shepardson,
Richard Cowan, Amanda Becker, Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Kevin
Drawbaugh and Alistair Bell)
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