McConnell dubious about ACA repeal in 2018, though some Republicans are still committed

U.S. Capitol with flag
Mitch McConnell is ready to move on from repealing the ACA, but other GOP senators want to give it another go. (Getty/Andrea Izzotti)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has signaled he's ready to move on from the GOP's bid to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but some of his peers aren't on the same page. 

McConnell told National Public Radio that he also wants to work toward bipartisan solutions to reform entitlements like Medicaid, breaking from his counterpart in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan. 

"This has not been a very bipartisan year," McConnell said. "I hope in the new year, we're going to pivot here and become more cooperative." 

McConnell had promised Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, that he would include measures to stabilize the ACA in a short-term spending bill, but that bill passed Thursday night without them. Collins and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said this week that Congress will return to those ACA fixes in the new year.

RELATED: New doubts surface about Alexander-Murray bill 

McConnell also noted that the Senate tried and failed twice to repeal the ACA this year with a 52-48 majority, per the NPR article. That lead will shrink to 51-49 when Doug Jones, of Alabama, is seated, which makes a full repeal even less likely. 

He said that the tax bill "takes the heart" out of the ACA anyway, as it repeals the law's individual mandate. The tax plan was signed into law today by President Donald Trump.

During a Friday press conference, though, McConnell seemed to walk those comments back, saying he’d be happy to pass the Graham-Cassidy proposal “as soon as we have the votes to achieve it.”

“The only observation I made yesterday … is 51-49 is a pretty tight majority,” McConnell said. “But I’d love to be able to make more substantial changes to Obamacare than we have.”

Meanwhile, during a Thursday event, McConnell also hinted that Republicans may not try to tackle entitlement reform given Democrats' resistance, according to The Washington Post. 

"I think Democrats are not going to be interested in entitlement reform, so I would not expect to see that on the agenda," the Kentucky Republican said. 

RELATED: Graham-Cassidy bill's collapse revives talk of bipartisan work on healthcare—but will it matter to insurers? 

Not all Republicans in the Senate are willing to abandon a full ACA repeal or Medicaid reform, however. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one co-sponsor of a bill that would change Medicaid into a block grant program, said on Twitter that he's still committed to a repeal. 

"To those who believe—including Senate Republican leadership—that in 2018 there will not be another effort to repeal and replace Obamacare...well, you are sadly mistaken," Graham tweeted

Stopgap spending bill prevents 4% cut to Medicare 

The short-term government spending bill passed that Congress late Thursday contained a provision that would prevent cuts to Medicare that the GOP tax bill would have triggered, Collins's office announced.

Had the automatic cut not been averted, "pay-as-you-go" rules would have mandated a $25 million Medicare cut, Collins said. She added that she was pleased that Congress committed to avoiding these "sudden and harmful cuts." 

"It was critical for Congress to act quickly so that seniors would not have the anxiety of wondering whether the tax bill would somehow negatively affect their healthcare," Collins said. 

Editor's note: This article has been updated to add McConnell's comments from a Friday press conference. 

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