Obamacare will be the deciding factor in this November's congressional elections, regardless of who's running the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told Newsmax in an exclusive interview.
"Obviously, Republicans don't like Obamacare, which is not surprising, since not a single Republican voted for it," McConnell said. "But much more importantly, independent voters — the swing voters, those that go back and forth and decide every election — also don't like Obamacare.
"For them, it's going to be a big — if not the decisive — issue in how they cast their vote this fall."
The Kentucky Republican, 72, who is seeking his sixth term this fall, talked to Newsmax Thursday, little more than an hour before news circulated that Kathleen Sebelius would resign after five stormy years as HHS secretary.
Her tenure was marred by the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act
, considered President Barack Obama's signature domestic legislative achievement.
On Friday, the president nominated Sylvia Mathews Burwell, director of the Office of Management and Budget, to succeed Sebelius. She must be confirmed by the Senate.
In a statement on Sebelius' resignation, McConnell said that "Secretary Sebelius may be leaving, but the problems with this law and the impact it’s having on our constituents aren’t. Obamacare has to go, too."
Further reflecting on Obamacare in his Newsmax interview, McConnell said that the law had created "chaos" throughout the nation. Sebelius had said earlier Thursday that 7.5 million Americans had signed up for coverage under the healthcare law.
"We don't know how many have paid, and they're doing everything they can to divert attention away from this catastrophe," he began. "People's premiums are going up, jobs are being lost — and even some of these folks who have been forced into this government insurance and are a part of the 7.5 million are going to find that they are paying more for less."
McConnell added that those who had insurance before Obamacare now are "probably paying more for worst insurance, now that the government is telling the insurance companies what they can sell.
"In many of these insurance policies, the deductible is so high that even if you are insured — and you paid for it — you can't meet the deductible. It's worthless insurance for a whole lot of people.
"It's the worst piece of legislation that's been passed in at least the last half century — and it is the single biggest step in Europeanizing our country," he said. "If the American people will give us the votes to do it, we intend to repeal it."
Turning his attention to the House of Representatives' 219-205 vote that backed the spending plan of GOP Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, McConnell said the issue was moot in the Senate because Majority Leader Harry Reid and "the Democrats set the agenda — and they've indicated that they don't intend to pass a budget this year."
The top budget limits were set under the agreement reached in December by Ryan and his Senate counterpart, Patty Murray, D-Wash., but no other guidelines are in place, McConnell said.
"That's why it would be best to have a budget blueprint. The reason why the Democrats don't want to pass a budget, don't want to bring a budget up, is because the majority leader … cannot prevent amendments.
"He's spent most of his time the last few years preventing Republicans — and even members of his own party — from offering amendments," McConnell added.
"He can't do that on a budget resolution — so they've announced, not surprisingly, that they're not going to do a budget this year."
When asked whether that was "business as usual" for the Senate, the minority leader said, laughing, "The Senate doesn't seem to change very much.
"They've been rather candid in admitting that things they have been bringing up have been cooked up over at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee — and they have no thought that any of them would pass.
"It's really about turning the Senate floor into a place to conduct campaigns," McConnell said. "It's not about getting an outcome."
That, of course, would all change should the Republicans re-take the upper chamber in the fall. The GOP needs six seats to win control.
"The argument we'll be making is if you want to change America, you have to change the Senate," McConnell told Newsmax. "We have to bust up the status quo, represented by a Democratic Senate that prevents the president from getting anything he doesn't want and eliminates the possibility of moving the country forward.
"If the American people want to go in a different direction, the only thing they can do this November to begin to move the country in a different direction is to change the majority in the Senate," he added. "That would mean that I, as the majority leader, would be setting the agenda instead of Harry Reid."
But McConnell is facing businessman and tea party-backed challenger Matt Bevin in a May 20 Republican primary. Recent surveys show him with double-digit leads over Bevin, but that's not the case against McConnell's likely Democratic challenger in the fall, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.
McConnell, who was endorsed on Friday by the National Rifle Association in the primary race, holds a razor-thin lead over Grimes, 43 percent to 42 percent, in recent polls.
In fact, political analyst Dick Morris — noting to Newsmax that McConnell's showing is "way under 50 percent" — has suggested that the incumbent might be in trouble
McConnell told Newsmax that he was "a national target" for Democrats this fall because of his top Senate position and, as such, Grimes was getting strong financial support solely because she was challenging him.
"These days, if you're a leader of one of the parties in the U.S. Senate, you get targeted," he said. "Whoever was going to be the Democratic candidate in Kentucky would have been able to have financial support from around the country simply because they were opposing me.
"It's just what comes along with the job."
In the fourth quarter of last year, Grimes' fund-raising was only slightly lower than McConnell's
, Politico reports.
Grimes raised $2.1 million, having just less than $3.5 million in cash on hand. That compared with the $2.22 million McConnell raised in the period. He has $10.9 million in cash, according to Politico.
"I understand that. I accept that," McConnell said of the realities of the November contest. "I'm confident that I'll be able to earn the support of Kentuckians, both for the nomination of my party and for another term in the U.S. Senate."
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