Transcript: Press conference Q&A with Sen. Mitch McConnell on health care reform

Transcript of the press conference Q&A with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on the Affordable Care Act on March 23, 2012: 


Question: 

“If the Supreme Court strikes the mandate but the rest of the law stands and experts say that that will send the insurance market into a death spiral. What can Congress do at that point? Can you fix the…?”

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.):

“That’s a really interesting question. I think the way forward after the Supreme Court decision almost has to await the Supreme Court decision. A lot of it depends on what they do.

“I think most people have looked at this – both those who are opposed to the Obamacare, as I am, or those who are in favor of it – tend to believe the individual mandate is kind of the linchpin of it. But I think kind of discussing an endless set of hypotheticals about what you would do if they did this or that is probably not productive, but we’ve had some conversations about it as you can imagine. But I think we’ll have to wait and see what the court does.”

Question: 


“Another hypothetical. If the court does say that the mandate is constitutional, what does that mean for Republicans who oppose health care reforms?”

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.):

“As I said a minute ago, something can be constitutional and still be a big mistake. You can’t repeal the math here. This is a disastrous step in the direction of Europeanizing the country and even if it’s constitutionally permissible to do. There are plenty of things that we shouldn’t do that are constitutional. So even if they find it constitutional, it’s still the biggest mistake that’s been made in recent history and ought to be undone.”

Question :

“Some commentators have said that this election is probably the last chance that you’ll have to repeal the law before it goes into effect in 2014. That by the time you get to 2014, you’re too far down the road to try to unwind it. What are your thoughts on that? And what do Republicans do if you don’t have majority in the Senate?”

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.):

“Gosh, it’s hard to look past the election. The American people are going to speak this November. You always hear people in my line of work say this is a really important election. This is a really important election.

“I think we’ve done the country – this administration, and its compliant Congress in ’09 and ’10 did a lot of damage to the country.

“Obviously, I hope the American people would give us the support here in Congress we need to undo a lot of that. And I’d rather not speculate about what might be the situation on down the road.”

Question: 

“You say that the law is full of broken promises, about everything that was said about the law – everything. But would you acknowledge certain pieces of the law are, in fact, popular and working?”

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.):

“Yeah, there are two that test well, and you’ll hear the Democrats talk about pre-existing condition and about the ability of young people to stay on their parents’ policies until they’re 26. Look, in a 3,000 page bill, I’m not surprised that there are a couple of things you’ll be able to point to. And these both test well in the polling, and I think they will make every effort to try to get people convinced that this 3,000 page bill is all about those two things. And they certainly are popular. There’s no question about that.”

Question: 

“Should the court strike down the entire law, would you quickly move to restore…?”

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.):

“You’re asking me a question I can’t answer or I’m not going to answer. What I can tell you is if we have a different majority here next year, we have an obligation to the American people – not a single Republican voted for this – to do everything we can to get it off the books and replace it. To use a medical metaphor, what we did was take a meat ax to the best health care system in the world when we should have used a scalpel. And we’d like to undo this huge mistake at the earliest possible moment if the American people give us the support to do it.”

Question: 

“What do you intend to replace it with if you’re able to actually repeal it?”

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.):

“Well, some of the things we’ve talked about, which I would view as scalpel – tight adjustments to the finest health care in the world – would be things like interstate sales for health insurance, being able to buy health insurance across interstate lines, medical malpractice. We don’t think the problems we’ve had in health care – and we certainly do have them – require massive overhaul of the current system and a raid on Medicare and the kind of cuts they made to hospitals and hospice and nursing homes. You know, all of us know people  who are serving on the boards of hospitals, nursing homes, hospice – they are struggling under these provider cuts. And every time we talk about trying to get a handle on entitlements, all our friends on the other side want to talk about is provider cuts. Pretty soon there are not any providers to take care of the burgeoning number of people that we’re putting on the roll. A good example of that is Medicaid, which we’ve already talked about. We’re adding massive numbers of people to the Medicaid rolls.”

Question: 

“There’s recent precedent, particularly along the Democratic side, for having legislative response to decisions the Supreme Court does… Like the DISCLOSE Act – both forms of it. And I know that you say that if Republicans win back the majority, one of the first things you will try to do is repeal the health care law. But I’m wondering if there’s any sort of legislative strategy or things you can do on the floor even before that to try to make a point about whatever the court decides.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.):

“Yeah, I think I’ve already answered that. I think it’s impossible to know what the reaction to the court decision would be before we have a court decision.”

Question: 

“Since you mentioned debt a couple of times, this question is relevant, if not germane. Where do you think the budget and the deficit are going to be on the continuum of issues you’re talking about on the campaign relative to gas prices or the economy or health care? As you know, voters talk a lot about wanting to get the deficit under control. But then when you confront them with the choices, they don’t want to cut Medicare, they don’t want to cut Social Security. How big of an issue is that going to be for you and what do you think is going to happen?”

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.):

“Well, I think we all know things like jobs and the economy are number one. The Obamacare mistake is a job killer, so it’s directly related to the number one subject on the minds of the American people.

“And I think they do care about debt and deficit. But you’re absolutely right. If you look at what people are the most concerned about, it’s down the list. I forget exactly how far down the list. If you’re asking me if it’s a huge campaign issue, I think it is a campaign issue – probably not bigger than jobs and the economy and certainly not bigger than Obamacare. Whether or not it becomes an issue in the campaign is an issue for our country. When you have a debt the size of your economy and you’ve suffered a credit downgrade – Erskine Bowles called it the ‘most predictable crisis’ in American history. Regardless of what is discussed in the campaign, regardless of what the best issues are in a campaign, this is a big issue for our country and it’s not going away and it will still be there after the election.”

Question: 

“Two years ago, there was so much passion with the rise of the Tea Party. You had the town halls. You had the big rallies of tens of thousands of people here in the Capitol. Do you think that the Tea Party is as strong and as influential as they were two years ago? And do you expect the same sort of – do you think that that passion against the health care law is still there?”

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.):

“I do. I think the passion that brought about the rise of the Tea Party had a lot to do with the issue that we’re talking about today. I believe the passage of Obamacare, although the Tea Party had come into existence before Christmas Eve of 2009.

“I really think Obamacare is a metaphor for all of the excess of this administration. The stimulus. The debt. The takeover of health care. The nationalization of the student loan program. All of this government excess. So I think all the folks who have been involved in that movement understand that the single most important thing we can do would be to replace the current occupant of the White House and it would be an assist if they were to shift the majority in the Senate.”

Question: 

“Being in this Congress, you authored an amendment to repeal the entire law that failed on 21 votes. Some members of your conference want there to be another vote to repeal the entire law. But of course, you don’t have control of the agenda but you can press for an amendment if you really try. Are you going to try to do that again?”

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.):

“That’s a really good question. There’s been an ongoing discussion in our conference about that. We’re thinking about it. We already know where everybody is. We’ve had the vote to oppose Obamacare. We’ve had the vote to repeal Obamacare. Every single Republican voted to oppose the law in the first place and to repeal it later. We know where everybody is. But it’s a matter still under discussion. We haven’t decided yet.”

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One Comment on “Transcript: Press conference Q&A with Sen. Mitch McConnell on health care reform

  1. Pingback: Transcript: McConnell calls health care reform 'the worst single legislation' | What The Folly?!

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