But he's still trying to find someone else to blame for it.
The GOP suffered a resounding defeat in the 2018 midterm elections, thanks in large part to Democrats' willingness to run hard on health care and shame Republicans for trying to take people's health care away.
Now, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is finally acknowledging that health care is why his party lost. But he's still not taking responsibility for the failure, trying instead to shift all that blame to the right wing of his caucus and ignoring the truth about just how hard establishment Republicans pushed to kick people off their health insurance.
In a leaked call to GOP donors obtained by the Washington Post, McCarthy admitted that his party's push to get rid of Obamacare's protections for people with pre-existing conditions is what cost Republicans the election.
But he immediately shifted to saying that the problem wasn't with the GOP as a whole, but rather the Freedom Caucus, the ultra-conservative branch of the House GOP. And he seemed to suggest that repealing Obamacare might have actually worked if not for the Freedom Caucus' meddling.
"When we couldn’t pass the repeal of Obamacare the first way through, an amendment came because the Freedom Caucus wouldn’t vote for" the original repeal bill, McCarthy said. "That amendment put [the] preexisting condition campaign against us, and so even people who are running for the very first time got attacked on that. And that was the defining issue and the most important issue in the race."
Both bills McCarthy referred to, however, would have kicked about 23 million people off their health insurance.
And McCarthy is trying hard to bury his own role in the process. For example, during the May 2017 vote to repeal Obamacare, McCarthy read inspirational quotes from General George S. Patton while projecting a picture of him onto a screen in the room, all to get GOP representatives hyped up enough to vote to repeal.
McCarthy's view on all this is deeply confusing. He blames the entire House loss on health care only, arguing that Republicans really won on the economy, immigration, and social issues.
There's no real evidence that is the case, and McCarthy's attempt to explain it was laughable:
But there was one issue we lost overwhelmingly — it was health care by 66 points. Had we lost health care just by 34 points, we’d still be in the majority. We’d have those other 80,000 votes that we needed.
McCarthy is missing quite a few zeroes with that number. Democrats won the popular vote by well over 8 million votes and picked up 40 House seats. The 2018 midterms weren't exactly a close race by any metric.
Keep in mind that McCarthy was so unwilling to admit that his party lost the House that he reportedly wished to be called "Republican leader" instead of the traditional "minority leader." So it isn't really surprising he'd go looking for someone or something else to pin that loss on.
Blame-shifting and denials aside, it's still amazing to see McCarthy admit that one of the cornerstones of his party's very existence — the repeal of Obamacare — turned out to be a complete loser.
On the call with donors, McCarthy also tried to set himself apart from the losers in the Freedom Caucus and said he'd recruit candidates who will "find a solution." And he made sure to tell the donors he was reaching out to doctors, Navy SEALS, and a former CIA agent to run in 2020.
Too bad for him that none of those people will make the GOP's view on healthcare any less unworkable and morally bankrupt.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.