December 9, 2016

MICHAEL WARREN: GOP’s game plan for undoing Obamacare.

It didn’t take long for Republican leadership in both houses of Congress to get over the shock of winning the election last month and start gaming out a repeal plan. The details remain under discussion, but House speaker Paul Ryan, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, and Vice President-elect Mike Pence (who is working closely with Ryan and McConnell on repeal) are already coalescing around a rough legislative framework. The plan might be summed up as: repeal, delay, replace. More precisely, Republicans plan to repeal most of the law, delay the implementation of most of that repeal for at least two years—and figure out what to replace it with in the interim.

It’s a legislative strategy adopted largely from the Heritage Foundation’s recommendations. The think tank’s health care experts Nina Owcharenko and Edmund F. Haislmaier authored a brief in November that advocated a four-step process that begins: “Maximize the reconciliation process for repeal.” According to Mitch McConnell, this will come in the form of an “Obamacare repeal resolution” on January 3, the first day of the new Congress.

Why start here and not a straightforward repeal bill? While such a repeal could pass the House of Representatives with a party-line vote, the small majority Republicans hold in the Senate (likely 52 to the Democrats’ 48) means there’s no supermajority of 60 to override an almost-certain Democratic filibuster. So the GOP plans to repeal Obamacare the same way Democrats passed it: through budget reconciliation, because Senate rules limit debate (and thereby avoid the filibuster threat) on budget legislation.

This process, however, also limits what Republicans can repeal.

Read the whole thing, although it did leave me with one nagging question: ObamaCare was passed in its entirety via reconciliation, so I don’t understand why it can’t be repealed in its entirety via reconciliation.

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