Would a GOP Congress Embrace or Replace Obamacare?
Policy + Politics

Would a GOP Congress Embrace or Replace Obamacare?

Republicans have been eerily quiet about the president's health care law on the campaign trail lately. But that's likely to change if the GOP is victorious and wins control of the Senate next week.

Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), told Fox News this week that taking aim at Obamacare is at the top of his list of priorities that he wants the Senate to address next year. If the senator wins his fiercely competitive re-election campaign and the GOP clenches a Senate majority, he will likely take over as the majority leader—having the luxury of calling as many repeal Obamacare votes as he wants.

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Related: Voters Want GOP to Move on From Obamacare

However, McConnell, along with many other Republicans, have acknowledged that completely getting rid of the law isn't likely to happen as long as President Obama is in the White House.

"Obviously, he’s not going to sign a full repeal," McConnell said. Instead,  

he said the GOP would likely zero in on specific and vulnerable Obamacare provisions like the medical device tax and the employer mandate.

“I believe the GOP will bring up the controversial pieces of Obamacare and force Democrats to take tough votes,” said Brian Gottlieb, A Republican strategist for Purple Strategies.  “Issues like the employer mandate, and the medical device tax will certainly come up for votes.”

Related: GOP Obamacare Strategy: Repeal or Repair?

McConnell seems to agree.

"There are pieces of (the law) that are extremely unpopular with the American public that the Senate ought to have a chance to vote on," the Senator said.

Doing away with the medical device tax, for example, already has bipartisan support in Congress and health and policy experts say that if the GOP takes the Senate, lawmakers will almost certainly pass legislation repealing it. In fact, the House already passed their own bill to repeal it, and with a GOP-controlled Upper Chamber, it would be expected to pass the Senate with Democrat support.

Other Obamacare provisions, like the employer mandate—which requires companies with 50 or more employees to offer workers health insurance or face a steep penalty—face opposition from both sides of the aisle. Earlier this year, President Obama’s former press secretary, Robert Gibbs, even predicted that the employer mandate would ultimately be repealed.

A GOP-controlled Senate could also be troublesome for a major provision of the law that protects insurers who participate in the exchanges from major losses. There is already a movement among Republicans in the Senate to repeal Obamacare’s risk corridors—though like a full repeal of the law, a vote would be symbolic only since President Obama would absolutely veto that bill.

Related: Obamacare Could Still Face the Supreme Court

Though the president will surely block any major changes to the law—it hasn’t stopped Republicans from beating the war drums over Obamacare.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that the GOP should continue voting to repeal the law to set an agenda for 2016.

“It’s not so much about what could be passed but setting the agenda and debate for the next presidential race,” the Iowa Republican said.

And while Republicans continue attempting to undo major portions of the law—as well as the law itself, the real imminent threat to Obamacare lies with the judicial branch.

The Supreme Court has been asked to take up the issue of whether people enrolled in the federal exchange can legally receive subsidies, since the law only mentions state exchanges in the language. If the Supreme Court agrees to take up the case and rules the federal subsidies are improper—thousands of people would be forced to pay significantly more for health coverage.

Of course, Congress could fix the language to include state and federal exchanges, but that is even less likely in the event of a completely Republican controlled body.

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