The House of Representatives passed Friday what was supposed to be their best shot at an Obamacare repeal measure to get through the Senate and onto the President’s desk. The only problem is, yet again, it faces a math problem in the Senate: not because of filibustering Democrats this time, but a few Republicans who say it doesn’t go far enough.
The plan for the bill, The Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act, was that it would overcome a Democratic filibuster in the Senate by using a legislative maneuver known as reconciliation, which only requires a majority in the Senate for passage. That makes it immune to a filibuster from minority Democrats. But the process is complicated, in part because reconciliation can only be used on measures that decrease the federal deficit. Full-scale Obamacare repeal, the Congressional Budget Office has said, would add $353 billion.
Friday’s bill only targets some of the unpopular aspects of Obamacare — including the individual and employer mandate, the “Cadillac” tax, and the medical device tax — in a way which the CBO has said will decrease the deficit. But because it is only a partial repeal that leaves in place things like the Medicaid expansion and the exchange subsidies, some conservatives are warning it does not go far enough.
Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) issued a statement Thursday saying they would oppose the House bill unless it dismantled the law entirely.
“Each of us campaigned on a promise to fully repeal Obamacare and a reconciliation bill is the best way to send such legislation to President Obama’s desk,” the statement said. “If this bill cannot be amended so that it fully repeals Obamacare pursuant to Senate rules, we cannot support this bill.”
Their opposition brings the Republican support for the bill to 51 votes, just the line the necessary for it to advance. But GOP senators will also be facing pressure from Heritage Action, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation, which came out against the bill earlier this week.
It’s a given that President Obama would veto the repeal bill, regardless. However, the thinking behind the effort is that it would be a dry-run for 2017, when a Republican President would presumably be sitting in the White House to sign it.
“This bill will not restore Americans’ health care freedom because it leaves the main pillars of the law in place,” the Heritage Action statement said. “GOP leaders are violating an explicit promise made in the budget and walking back on their public commitment to fully repeal Obamacare. By doing so they are undermining any serious effort to repeal the law in 2017.”
The bill would also partially defund Planned Parenthood, and a similar fault line has formed there, though most anti-abortion groups support the measure.
“Instead of using the appropriations process with all the leverage and media spotlight necessary to force President Obama and Senate Democrats to cave on an issue, they chose a process that offers no leverage, no media spotlight, and no chance of overcoming a unified Democrat front,” Erik Erickson wrote at Red State this week. “Its an exercise in high-end failure theatre that also insulates congressmen who just voted to fund Planned Parenthood from any retribution from their voters.”