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How to Repeal ObamaCare in January

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Anticipating victory in November’s elections, both parties are working up their legislative plans for 2013. Republicans, looking forward to regaining a Senate majority along with the White House, will have repeal of ObamaCare high on their list.

But how to do it? Attempts to repeal the law in the current Congress have fallen short. Flush with gains from the 2010 election that gave Republicans control of the House, the lower chamber made ObamaCare repeal Job #2. On January 19, 2011, H.R. 2, the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act,” passed the House on a 245-189 vote. In never got a vote in the Senate.

Same story this year. The House passed (244-185) a full repeal bill, H.R. 6079, in July, right after the Supreme Court ruling. Again, the Senate refused to consider the bill.

Clearly, repeal will not happen next year unless both the Senate and the Oval Office change hands. Yet, even if that happens, the standard legislative process will not be adequate to strip the law from the books. The filibuster power would allow a pro-ObamaCare minority to stop repeal legislation in its tracks… unless a new Senate leadership adopted a new strategy.

That strategy requires, first and foremost, commitment. The new leadership must be committed to the proposition that full repeal of ObamaCare is the first order of business for the next Congress—to the exclusion of any other work. In other words, leaders of the new Senate majority must resolve that no other legislation shall pass until they send a full repeal bill to the desk of a new President.

With that commitment in place, here’s how the strategy would play out. First, the House convenes and passes legislation to fully repeal ObamaCare on day one. Then the Senate would take up the legislation, forcing a vote. Liberals would be expected to filibuster, but Senate leadership would keep putting the bill on the floor—to the exclusion of any other Senate work—until the opposition allows a simple majority vote. The Senate Majority Leader has the power to force liberals to filibuster the legislation for weeks, or even months, if he has the will.

Make no mistake. It will require a lot of will. Opposition will be determined, as well, notwithstanding the fact that many liberal Democratic Senators have loudly deplored filibustering. Indeed, last year Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) lead an effort to scale back the filibuster power. However, liberal opposition to the idea of a filibuster historically evaporates just as soon as they find themselves in the Senate minority. It is doubtful that anti-filibuster Democrats will stand on principle and refuse to filibuster a full repeal of ObamaCare on the first try, so many cloture votes will be necessary.

The most effective tool for breaking a filibuster is urgency—as created by the introduction of must-pass legislation. And a very real sense of urgency may be provided soon by the Department of Treasury. Not long after the elections, Treasury is expected notify Congress of the need to raise the debt ceiling. Thus, a debt ceiling increase might be demanded sometime early next year.

Now, the Congressional Budget Office may score repeal as adding to the deficit. If so, the amendment could also include commonsense measures—such as increasing Medicare premiums—to off-set the alleged cost of repeal. Or, it could simply cite the numerous studies showing that ObamaCare is, in fact, a budget buster—and that repeal would save much, much more over time.

In any event, conservatives should attach the full-repeal bill to any debt-ceiling measure that is introduced. Indeed, a full-repeal amendment should be attached to every piece of legislation that comes before the Senate, until repeal is passed.

Certainly this isn’t the only strategy possible to repeal ObamaCare. But it’s the simplest. Success hinges on a strong-willed leadership to keep the Senate on legislation to repeal ObamaCare until it is passed. If conservatives force liberals be in the position of using the dreaded and demonized filibuster to thwart the will of the American people and Congress – the liberals will cave.

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