While You Were Sleeping, Republicans Took The First Step In Repealing Obamacare

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Jan 12, 2017 7:30 AM
While You Were Sleeping, Republicans Took The First Step In Repealing Obamacare

In the early morning hours, while most of the country was asleep, Senate Republicans took the first step in repealing Obamacare, with a budget resolution that passed on a 51-48 party-line vote. A simple majority was all that was required for it to pass since Republicans will be using the reconciliation process to avoid a Democratic filibuster. The House is set to take up the resolution on Friday (via Associated Press):

The Senate early Thursday passed a measure to take the first step forward on dismantling President Barack Obama's health care law, responding to pressure to move quickly even as Republicans and President-elect Trump grapple with what to replace it with.

The nearly party-line 51-48 vote came on a nonbinding Republican-backed budget measure that eases the way for action on subsequent repeal legislation as soon as next month.

"We must act quickly to bring relief to the American people," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

The House is slated to vote on the measure on Friday, though some Republicans there have misgivings about setting the repeal effort in motion without a better idea of the replacement plan.

Trump oozed confidence at a news conference on Tuesday, promising his incoming administration would soon reveal a plan to both repeal so-called Obamacare and replace it with legislation to "get health care taken care of in this country."

The incoming Trump White House hasn’t been hiding that repealing Obamacare would be at the top of their agenda. The president-elect said this week that he wants to repeal the law first, and then pass a replacement bill shortly thereafter. Ideally, it seems the president-elect wants that replacement bill in place by the time the repeal vote is held (via NYT):

President-elect Donald J. Trump demanded on Tuesday that Congress immediately repeal the Affordable Care Act and pass another health law quickly. His remarks put Republicans in the nearly impossible position of having only weeks to replace a health law that took nearly two years to pass.

“We have to get to business,” Mr. Trump told The New York Times in a telephone interview. “Obamacare has been a catastrophic event.”

Mr. Trump appeared to be unclear both about the timing of already scheduled votes in Congress and about the difficulty of his demand — a repeal vote “probably some time next week” and a replacement “very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter.”

But he was clear on one point: Plans by congressional Republicans to repeal the health law now, then take years to create and implement a replacement law are unacceptable to the incoming president.

Right now, Republican lawmakers are debating between repealing and replacing Obamacare now or waiting to do that on a three-year timeframe. There are many Republican reforms to health care, each sponsor probably wanting to include their legislation into an alternate bill, with the endless cost-benefit analyses. This is Congress. Things take a while—and this is one area where the GOP cannot screw up unless they want to risk being punished during the midterm election cycle. Some Republicans also want a replacement bill ready to go by the time a repeal vote is held, while adding that they want to pass the alternate bill in chunks.Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) voted against the resolution this morning (Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) didn’t vote), saying that repealing the bill now would add too much to the deficit (via WSJ):

“I’m a no,” he said in a brief interview. “It adds $9.7 trillion in debt over 10 years.”

Other Senate Republicans, including Susan Collins of Maine and Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker of Tennessee, have voiced concerns about repealing the health-care law before the GOP has settled on a plan to replace it. However, all three voted to advance the budget in an early procedural vote Wednesday, which passed 51-48, allowing the Senate to consider the measure.

On Monday, five GOP senators put forward an amendment to extend the repeal deadline to March 3 as opposed to January 27, citing concerns about the process being rushed. Yet, while repeal seems to be an easy hurdle to overcome through reconciliation, passing the replacement bill will be quite the project. It will most likely require Senate Republicans to find eight Democrats they can bring over to pass the 60-vote threshold. Democrats are not pleased with Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare, and it looks as if they’re not in a mood to negotiate on anything relating to this matter now or in the near future. AP added that other options are being considered:

Increasing numbers of Republicans have expressed anxiety over obliterating the law without a replacement to show voters.

[…]

Many members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus were insisting on first learning details about what a GOP substitute would look like — or putting some elements of the replacement measure in the repeal bill.

Even incoming counselor to the president and former Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway conceded that repealing Obamacare could take years. We shouldn’t be shocked if the three-year timetable to repeal and replace Obamacare completely is the direction the GOP takes on this matter.