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After failed health-care vote, McConnell needs to go

  • The health bill failure is one of the most dramatic flubs in Senate leadership history.
  • The polls show Republicans badly trailing the Democrats ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
  • Mitch McConnell cannot survive for much longer as Senate majority leader in this climate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Aaron P. Bernstein | Reuters
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's failure to get any kind of Obamacare repeal of replacement bill passed confirms what many us have been saying for a while: He needs to step down from his post as majority leader – and maybe even quit the Senate altogether.

Rep. Mo Brooks, a Republican from Alabama and a candidate to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions' Senate seat, this week renewed his call for McConnell to step down.

"Unquestionably, the leadership at the top is responsible. The buck stops there. That's why you take on that kind of responsibility," Brooks said. "And if Mitch McConnell cannot get the job done on this, how is he going to get the job done on the rest of President Trump's agenda over the next three-and-a-half years? … It's not necessarily anything bad about Mitch McConnell himself personally. But he's got a job to do, and if he can't do it, then, as 'The Apprentice' would say, 'you're fired,' get somebody who can."

Of course, the Republicans should have seen this coming at least three years ago when McConnell showed that his first priority was consolidating his own power and everything else came second. During the 2014 elections, he helped to defeat several Tea Party Republican Senate primary candidates in favor of GOP Senate contenders who backed him for the Majority Leader position. He pulled the same strategy last year. You have to hand it to McConnell in that he was able to get and keep his top position in the Senate through two tumultuous election periods.

And you also have to hand it to McConnell for at least looking like he came through for his insurance lobbyist friends. A study conducted by the left-leaning money and politics watchdog Maplight that showed McConnell is a top recipient of insurance and pharma industry campaign donations, and he packed most of the other key members his Senate health bill "working group" with other top recipients. Those insurers opposed all the bills that came up for a vote this week as they complained they would make participating in Obamacare impossible in the relatively short term.

"But he's got a job to do, and if he can't do it, then, as 'The Apprentice' would say, 'you're fired,' get somebody who can." -Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.)

But now something has changed. McConnell has made the GOP brand toxic to the public. The latest roundup of polls by RealClearPolitics shows the Republican-controlled Congress has anywhere from an 11 percent to 21 percent approval rating, and the Democrats are leading the generic congressional ballot polls by clear margins as well.

If the Republicans can't save their jobs by getting wins on the field like passing major bills, their only other option is to get a new coach. McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan are both going to have a hard time holding on to their leadership jobs if this climate persists. But more fingers will point to McConnell because it was the Senate where the health bills ultimately failed.

There are more than a few good reasons to dump McConnell and enough plausible contenders to take his job. Either way, we're about to find out just how good a survivor Mitch McConnell really is.

Commentary by Jake Novak, CNBC.com senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.

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