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Cornyn: Obamacare Repeal Vote Should Wait

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said he hopes his GOP colleagues hold off on a vote to fully repeal Obamacare until after Republicans have shown they can govern.  

"I think it's important that we demonstrate that we can be productive before we have the inevitable fight over repealing Obamacare," the Texas Republican said in an interview with CQ Roll Call Wednesday. “We are going to have that vote. But my own preference would be we have it after we've been able to demonstrate that we can actually get some things done."  

Asked if he would be opposed to an Obamacare repeal amendment being offered to the bill due on the floor next week to authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, Cornyn said, "I think that would muddle the message."  

Supporters of the Keystone bill have also said that they would prefer that only relevant amendments be offered.  

Adding a repeal to any bill would effectively act as a poison pill for Democrats and the White House — and a pure repeal is certain to fall short of the 60 votes necessary to end a filibuster. But Republicans have pledged to try and repeal it anyway.  

To that end, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., earlier told CQ Roll Call there will at least be a vote on proceeding to a bill repealing the law .  

Cornyn predicted the King v. Burwell case that will be argued before the Supreme Court in March will end up going a long way towards undoing the law.  

The court will decide whether the law allows people participating in the federally run health care exchange to get subsidies. A decision denying the subsidies would significantly undermine the law.  

"What I expect is that the Supreme Court is going to render a body blow to Obamacare from which I don’t think it will ever recover," Cornyn said.  

He also said there may be bipartisanship on some of the much smaller Affordable Care Act rollbacks, such as a bill that passed the House 412 to 0 on opening day that would encourage the hiring of veterans by exempting them from counting toward the employer mandate under Obamacare.  

"So I think there are going to be some parts of repealing Obamacare that are going to be consensus, bipartisan items," Cornyn said.  

Some of those bills with bipartisan backers face opposition from the White House. That's true in the case of a measure that would define full time employment as 40 hours per week for the purposes of the Affordable Care Act.  

"Our goal is simple. We want to protect part-time workers from having their hours reduced and their paychecks cut because of the definition in this law," said lead Senate sponsor Susan Collins, R-Maine.  

That bill faces a White House veto threat and received a fairly ugly CBO score saying it would boost the deficit, result in more people uninsured and on Medicaid and potentially reduce, not increase, the number of hours worked by full-time workers.  

Ahead of a House vote, the Office of Management and Budget said "it would significantly increase the deficit, reduce the number of Americans with employer-based health insurance coverage, and create incentives for employers to shift their employees to part-time work — causing the problem it intends to solve."  

And Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Democrats would seek to block efforts to roll back the health care law, financial services reform or tampering with access to the Internet.  

"Any attempt to erode protections for working American families — the dismantling of Dodd-Frank, the weakening of net neutrality rules, or the Republicans’ never-ending quest to repeal the Affordable Care Act — will be met with swift and unified Democratic opposition," Reid said in a statement read on the floor by Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill.  

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