Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to tie the bill extending jobless benefits for 1.3 million people to a delay in the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate Tuesday.
The Kentucky Republican asked for unanimous consent on the floor Tuesday morning for consideration of an amendment to the pending three-month unemployment insurance bill that Democrats were certain to oppose — and did. McConnell's proposal would have restored military pension cost-of-living cuts enacted by the recent budget deal and then pay for both items by striking at the heart of Democrats' health care law by delaying the individual mandate for a year.
Asking for a vote on what amounted to a poison pill amendment enables Republicans to continue hitting the unpopular health care law while perhaps shielding themselves from criticism in states still hard-hit by the recession for opposing unemployment benefits.
From McConnell's exchange with Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on the floor moments ago:
"To that end, I'd like to propose that my side be allowed to offer an amendment to pay for these benefits by lifting the burden of Obamacare's individual mandate for one year and take care of our veterans who were harmed by the recently agreed-to budget deal while we're at it in the same amendment," McConnell said. "And once that is disposed of, we can have an actual debate on this issue and an amendment process here in the Senate, which hasn't happened very often in recent times."