It looks like Republicans have given up on Obamacare repeal -- for now

  • Conservative groups connected to the powerful Koch brothers are declining to push for Obamacare repeal in 2018.
  • The move is the latest sign Republicans are shifting their focus away from the healthcare law.

Republicans in and out of Washington appear to be punting on a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the law known as Obamacare, as they shift their focus to other priorities.

According to Axios’ Caitlin Owens, conservative groups backed by the influential Koch brothers are turning their attention away from Obamacare repeal and focusing on other issues instead, like selling the GOP tax law.

The decision appears to be the latest indication that the GOP is shelving one of their top policy priorities for much of the past decade – at least for now.

The possibility of repeal was already small given the slim Republican majority in the Senate, which has shrunk to just 51-49. Given resistance from moderate Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski to every ACA repeal bill in 2017, the possibility of getting a bill through even on a partisan basis was almost impossible.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell came close to admitting as much in December after Democratic Sen. Doug Jones won in Alabama.

“Well, we obviously were unable to completely repeal and replace with a 52-48 Senate,” McConnell told National Public Radio. “We’ll have to take a look at what that looks like with a 51-49 Senate, but I think we’ll probably move on to other issues.”

On the House side, some lawmakers raised a fuss about possible repeal in early 2018, but talk quickly cooled off as leadership from both chambers set priorities for the year.

Reports have also indicated that the Senate and House may not come together on identical budget proposals for fiscal year 2019. That would be a key step in any potential Obamacare repeal, because it unlocks the process known as budget reconciliation and would allow the GOP to pass an Obamacare repeal bill with a simple majority vote in the Senate.

Without reconciliation, Democrats could block any attempt at repeal with a filibuster.

While the focus appears to be shifting away from the ACA, the GOP may feel less pressure to pass a repeal bill. The Trump administration chipped away at the regulatory underpinnings of the law in 2017, and the recently passed tax law also does away with Obamacare’s individual mandate.

So even without a full blown repeal and replace, the GOP can still claim some victories on the healthcare front.

Given the political reality, major donor disinterest, and how deeply unpopular previous repeal attempts were, it looks like Obamacare will remain the law of the land in 2018.

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