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Mitch McConnell sounds close to giving up on Obamacare repeal

Senate Lawmakers Address The Press After Their Weekly Policy Luncheons Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is signaling that he may be getting ready to give up on trying to repeal Obamacare.

Shortly after enough senators said they couldn’t vote to move forward with a plan to repeal large parts of Obamacare without a replacement, McConnell acknowledged that the GOP may have to leave the law intact because of irreconcilable differences in his own caucus.

“This has been very challenging for all of us,” he told reporters in the Capitol after his last-ditch effort to repeal the bill fell apart this morning. “We do not have 50 senators who can agree on what ought to replace the existing law.”

Republicans spent seven years campaigning against Obamacare and more than six months this Congress trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

Now McConnell is publicly recognizing what had already become obvious to everyone on Capitol Hill: that he had failed to craft a health care bill that could get 50 Republican senators to vote for it.

But it was striking nonetheless to hear the top Senate Republican openly admit that his party had failed to ram through its own top legislative priority, and solely because of internal dissension.

“Everybody’s given it their best shot,” McConnell said. “But as of today, we just don’t have enough members to agree on what should replace the existing law.”

McConnell lays out the path for winding down the ACA

Voting on a bill that Congress passed in 2015 to repeal major parts of Obamacare without any replacement was already a last-chance attempt on McConnell’s part to save the GOP health care overhaul.

Then support for the repeal bill fell apart when three senators said they would not even vote to begin the process of considering it. Tuesday, Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Susan Collins (R-ME) all vowed to defeat a vote on Obamacare repeal with no replacement — dealing the proposal a fatal blow.

But McConnell promised to hold a vote anyway, arguing that the time between passage and implementation would allow the Senate Republicans to hammer out a “replacement” deal — presumably with Democratic support.

“I would remind everyone that in that proposal there’s a two-year delay, which would give us the opportunity to work out a complete replacement on a bipartisan basis with our Democratic friends,” McConnell said at Tuesday’s press conference. “That’s a vote we’re very likely to have in the near future.”

But he surely knows repeal is already doomed. The fact that he pledged to hold a vote anyway is a testament to just how dire the situation for any Senate Republicans health care bill is — and just how likely Obamacare is to survive.

Asked by CNN’s Manu Raju how Republicans would justify failing to repeal Obamacare to their base, McConnell had a response prepared. “We have a new Supreme Court justice, we have 14 repeals of regulations, and we’re only six months into it. Last I looked, Congress goes on for two years,” he said. “And we’ll be moving on to comprehensive tax reform and infrastructure.”