McConnell To Trump: Changing Senate Rules Won’t Fix Health Care Stalemate

Alex Brandon/AP

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Tuesday afternoon dismissed President Donald Trump’s call for the Senate to change its rules for passing legislation.

“It’s pretty obvious that our problem on health care was not the Democrats. We didn’t have 50 Republicans,” McConnell said at a brief press conference when asked about Trump’s suggestion.

The majority leader also said that there is not enough support in the Senate to change the rules regarding legislative filibusters.

“The votes are simply not there,” McConnell said.

After the Senate failed last week to pass legislation repealing Obamacare, Trump suggested changing the Senate rules in a tweetstorm that vented his frustration with the process.

Democrats can start a filibuster on most legislation in the Senate, requiring a bill to have 60 votes to pass. Because Republicans have a slim majority of just 52 senators, it’s impossible for them to pass a partisan bill. Trump was looking to eliminate that problem.

As McConnell pointed out Tuesday, however, the Senate had used the reconciliation process to try to repeal Obamacare, under which the bill only needed a simple majority of 51 votes to pass. But three Republicans defected to sink the bill.

McConnell dismissed Trump’s frustration with the rules, arguing that two top priorities for Republicans, tax reform and health care, can be passed through the reconciliation process. Senate Republican leaders on Tuesday also signaled that they would pivot to tax reform when they return from an August recess, and McConnell said they will likely pursue that legislative goal through reconciliation.

He also left the door open for Republicans to try to repeal Obamacare again, noting that their window to repeal the law through reconciliation has not yet expired and revealing that senators are still asking for scores on some proposals.