Conservatives somehow already furious at Mitch McConnell for not repealing Obamacare

Mitch McConnell won't be able to repeal Obamacare with a Senate majority. But everyone will yell at him anyway!

By Jim Newell
Published November 3, 2014 3:44PM (EST)
Mitch McConnell                                             (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Mitch McConnell (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Last week we made the STARTLING prediction that would-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's life would be terrible come January. We were wrong. It already is terrible!

If McConnell can fend off Alison Lundergan Grimes in his reelection race tomorrow, and if Republicans win enough seats to take control of the Senate, Majority Leader McConnell is going to face some pressure to perform legislative feats that will not be mathematically possible. There will be pressure to repeal Obamacare. It took conservatives years, climaxing in a government shutdown, to realize that they would not be able to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act with control of only one chamber of Congress. How long will it take them to realize that they won't be able to repeal it with both chambers either, as long as Barack Obama or another Democrat is president?

McConnell tried to manage these expectations on a recent Fox News appearance, urging conservatives to "remember who’s in the White House for two more years." He continued: "It would take 60 votes in the Senate. No one thinks we’re going to have 60 Republicans, and it would take a presidential signature."

This prematurely launched the heckling from conservatives that we'll hear plenty of if and when Republicans take control of the Senate: McConnell doesn't have the spine to either trigger the "nuclear option" on legislation or work a full Obamacare repeal through the budget reconciliation process, two procedural moves that would allow the GOP Senate to pursue repeal with a 51-vote majority.

After receiving its first taste of conservative fury, McConnell's office told the Washington Examiner that, sure, whatever, maybe he'll try reconciliation after all.

"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.

So they'll get an Obamacare repeal through the Senate with 51 votes. Victory! America's back, baby! And then ... Obama will veto it and that will be the end of that. There is no fancy trick card to play here.

There are members of the conservative movement who know perfectly well that Mitch McConnell won't be able to get Obamacare repealed in the next two years -- and see a fundraising opportunity in this, or opportunities to stoke their media bases' rage. They'll watch as Mitch McConnell fails to achieve the impossible, and then send out emails or spew on the radio about how Mitch McConnell is a lily-livered ball-less failure who's Turned His Back On Conservatives. They're already revving up, as Politico reports:

The angst about McConnell’s remarks have steadily built across the conservative community since the Tuesday appearance on Cavuto, though the outrage from the right should come as little surprise given their frequent attacks on McConnell and support for his handily defeated primary challenger Matt Bevin.

Here’s how the anger on the right built: Conservative talker Mark Levin said on Tuesday evening that “it is clear he has no intention of using 51 votes of the Republican new majority.” Then Senate Conservatives Fund, a big Bevin backer, called McConnell the “worst GOP candidate in 2014” for “making excuses” on Obamacare. From there Bozell’s ForAmerica put out the word for conservatives to call McConnell’s campaign office, which was shared by Erick Erickson’s RedState.

“The reaction is passionate. People want action. Enough of this wimpiness,” Bozell said.

Mitch McConnell, pfft. Wimp. Spineless. Coward. Elitist. Closet liberal. Silly-sally. Obamabot. Chickenshit. Failure. Weak. These are all terms that professional conservatives are going to throw at Mitch McConnell every day for as long as a Democratic president possesses a veto pen. Mitch McConnell will say "we don't have the numbers to overturn a veto" and Erick Erickson will write a funny blog post about how liberal Mitch McConnell is too weak to take a stand against math. Hoo boy. At least there will be something to look forward to if everything goes as polls suggest they will tomorrow.

Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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