Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated today that Republicans believe they will only need 51 votes to overturn the centerpiece of the 2010 health care law.
In an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," the Kentucky Republican repeatedly referred to the mandate that individuals buy health insurance as a tax, citing the recent Supreme Court decision.
If Republicans take the majority in the Senate in the 2012 elections, McConnell said, he would use budget reconciliation to overturn the law — a move that would not be subject to the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster.
"Reconciliation is available because the Supreme Court has now declared it a tax," McConnell said. "They have unearthed the massive deception that was practiced by the president and the Democrats to constantly deny that it was a tax. ... And as a tax, it is eligible for reconciliation."
President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats have repeatedly argued that the fee that people who do not buy insurance will pay is not a tax, preferring to call it a penalty or use other language.
In an appearance on ABC's "This Week," White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew called it "a penalty" and "a charge."
"What you call it is not the issue," he said.
In order to overcome a filibuster, Democrats required 60 votes in the Senate to pass the health care law. It passed on a vote of 60-39 in 2009. After Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) was elected, Democratic leaders later had to use reconciliation to pass the final amended version, 56-43, in 2010.
Congressional Republicans, including McConnell, opposed the use of reconciliation to pass the health care bill at the time.