Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has some news for Paul Ryan and House Republicans: Obamacare was a losing battle. The Kentucky Senator, famous for declaring his party's narrow intent to make Barack Obama a "one-term president," appeared to veer from his colleagues' long-held stance that undoing the Affordable Care Act — a.k.a Obamacare — is politically feasible, even after the package passed in March 2010, was upheld by the Supreme Court in June 2012, and its namesake was re-elected on November 6. "When it came to Obamacare, we gave it everything we had — everything we had — and we just barely lost the legislative fight," McConnell told his audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday morning. And he reiterated his opposition to the legislation: "Obamacare should be repealed root and branch," he said, adding that people who thought the fight to repeal the plan was dead were "dead wrong." So maybe Ryan, who assumed the repeal of the health-care laws in his 2013 House GOP budget, will have that to hang his hat on.
Continuing on that theme, the Republican leader assailed Obamacare for introducing an array of new regulations. For the duration of his CPAC speech he was flanked by a large stack of paper that, McConnell said, represented the legislation's onerous requirements, and what his party opposed about progressive legislation. "If there were ever a symbol of what we're fighting against, this tower is it," he said, pointing to the sheets of paper, which had been wheeled onstage using a dolly.
McConnell is the latest GOP leader to almost kind of admit that Obamacare is, despite the party's best efforts, actually going to happen. Two days after President Obama was reelected, House Speaker John Boehner admitted that the legislation is "the law of the land," though he continues to indulge the wish of House Republicans to vote for a repeal. (The last House vote to repeal took place last week, and promptly failed in the Senate.) Other leaders, such as former Ryan, have yet to be persuaded: on Tuesday he introduced a federal budget which depends on the dismantling of Obamacare. Below, you can watch Fox News host Chris Wallace try to convince Ryan that undoing Obamacare is "not going to happen":
Sen. Ted Cruz, who introduced new legislation to dismantle the president's health-care legislation this week, will close out CPAC on Sunday. McConnell appeared to reference that on Friday, saying that "Every single Republican voted to defund Obamacare. Anybody who thinks we have moved beyond it is dead wrong."
You can watch McConnell's full speech here, and stay tuned for more from on the ground at CPAC all weekend...
(A previous version of this post quoted Sen. McConnell as having said "we just lost" on the legislative discussions over health-care reform.)