Obamacare Repeal Has Started
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Let’s be clear. There is no fixing Obamacare. Insurance premiums have skyrocketed, deductibles are so high that an insurance plan is almost worthless to millions of Americans, people have fewer choices, and many insurers are leaving the exchanges in numerous counties across the country. Remember how President Obama promised his healthcare reform law would save families $2,500 per year in premium payments or if you liked your plan, you could keep it?
The opposite happened.
On Tuesday afternoon, January 3, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) filed S. Con. Res. 3, a budget resolution that will begin the process to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare. It begins what is essentially a two-step procedure to repeal large parts of Obamacare.
Congress will use the budget reconciliation process, a complicated legislative procedure that only requires 51 votes in the Senate, thus avoiding a filibuster, to pass an Obamacare repeal bill. This is important because it is expected no Democrats will vote in favor of any repeal measure. Of course, the House always requires a simple majority to pass a bill.
The budget resolution, S. Con. Res. 3, is step-one in the procedure. The resolution provides “reconciliation” instructions to the Senate Finance and the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committees, as well as the House Ways and Means and the Energy and Commerce Committees, to reduce the deficit by $1 billion and provides the parameters to write Obamacare repeal legislation. These committees will then provide step-two of the process by writing their respective repeal bills within the parameters of the resolution by January 27, 2017. The Senate Budget Committee will then merge the Senate and House committees’ various bills into one Obamacare repeal bill, which will also require only 51 votes in the Senate for passage.
The reconciliation process can only consider spending, taxes, and the debt limit. Therefore, for example, to repeal the requirement to purchase health insurance, the tax (or fine) will be reduced to zero.
The real fireworks will begin in earnest next week in the Senate. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) already voted against considering S. Con. Res. 3, expressing he has concerns over adding to the debt. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) have also stated that they are reluctant to vote for a repeal of Obamacare without including a replacement plan but, unlike Sen. Paul, did vote to at least debate the resolution. The vote margins are slim and if the Republicans do not stick together, repeal of Obamacare could not happen.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) has promised a replacement for Obamacare is forthcoming, but wants to wait until President-Elect Trump is in the White House and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) is serving in his role as Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Next week, a “vote-a-rama” will occur in which amendments will be considered and voted on. The Democrats have promised to offer plenty of them too, mainly to slow the process and to force some difficult "messaging" votes. Once the Senate votes on final passage, S. Con. Res. 3 will move over to the House for a vote.
This is a greatly simplified explanation of what will happen. But one thing is certain, the process has begun to repeal Obamacare. It will be historic and great theater to watch and pay attention to.