WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court may think it's legal, and the public didn't think it was worth dumping President Barack Obama over, but Republicans in the House and Senate alike are sure this time they can make Obamacare a winning political issue.
Republicans in both houses are pareparing for votes to defund or otherwise do away with Obama's signature reforms of the nation's health-care laws.
And while over the last 18 months most of those efforts have been led by conservative outliers with little institutional support, this year's annual push is getting a buy-in from the establishment.
"Obamacare is a costly mistake that we cannot afford, and my preference would be to repeal it, root and branch," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday in a statement provided by an aide.
"We are going to have a number of spending bills and budget bills in the coming weeks. I know [Sen.] Ted Cruz is planning to offer an amendment to defund Obamacare, and I look forward to supporting him," McConnell added.
McConnell Monday afternoon was expected to use the Senate floor as a platform to kick off Senate Republicans' attacks on the law, lamenting the 18,000 pages in new regulations that are being implemented by the administration under the law.
In fact nobody, including Republicans, expect anything remotely resembling repeal will pass. "No, it won't pass unless a lot of Democrats defect," a Senate GOP leadership aide acknowledged.
A Democratic aide was more blunt: "Obamacare is as likely to be repealed as [Sen.] Chuck Schumer is likely giving up press conferences for lent. It ain't gonna happen."
After Boehner's declaration that Obamacare was the law of the land and the entire GOP establishment called for the party to begin the process of soul searching, most observers — and many relieved Republicans — thought the annual fight over the health-care overhaul was over.
For weeks, Republicans wrung their hands, worrying over the need to move beyond a party that is simply in opposition to Obama and Senate Democrats into a proactive party with policy positions of their own.
But with the spring budget and spending season upon the two chambers — a period when both sides roll out as many politically minded messaging votes as possible — it's clear little of that thinking has taken hold in the short term.
In fact, with conservatives more firmly in control of major parts of the House and Senate GOP Conferences — and many members of leadership facing potential primary fights — Obamacare as a rallying cry for the right isn't going anywhere.
"From where you sit, I can see how you'd think that. But from where I sit, this is something that's always been on our plate. It never fell off," the leadership aide said.
John Stanton is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New Orleans. In 2014, Stanton was a recipient of the National Press Foundation’s 2014 Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting of Congress.
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