Will the bill get to Obama’s desk?
[UPDATE 1/6/2016: The answer to the question is yes, the bill will get to Obama’s desk. The measure passed.]
Remember that slogan, “repeal and replace”? There have actually been quite a few bills passed in the House to repeal Obamacare during the last couple of years, whether you’ve noticed them or not. Here’s an article about it from this past October:
House Republicans pushed forward with another vote to roll back the Affordable Care Act on Friday, passing a bill that would repeal several major pillars of President Obama’s landmark 2010 law, including the requirement that Americans have health coverage.
The legislation, the latest of more than 50 bills by congressional Republicans to repeal all or part of the health law, would also halt federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
The 240-189 vote will not change anything in the health law or Planned Parenthood, however, as Obama has indicated he would veto the bill if it ever reaches his desk.
People complain all the time about Republicans controlling Congress and yet being unable—or is it unwilling?—to do something. The power of a presidential veto often seems to leave the majority Republicans saying they have little recourse but a shutdown, a move they’ve been reluctant to take.
Whatever one thinks of the reasonableness of the Republican failure to do what was promised—and most conservatives don’t think it’s the least bit reasonable—something seems to be changing. It may be “too little, too late” for you (or even for the country), or you may think it’s a case of more kabuki theater.
The change appears to be at least in part a reaction to the growing sense that Congressional Republicans must have that their base is very very angry. This has been brought home to them by the popularity of such non-establishment candidates as Fiorina, Carson, and of course Donald Trump. It also is a result of conservative members of Congress using their influence to pressure Boehner to resign.
I wrote about the prelude to the current move back in early December. At that point, something different had occurred in the Senate, not just the House, even though McConnell was and is still in charge in the Senate. The mechanism by which it occurred was reconciliation, the hair of the dog that bit them:
While the House and Senate have voted scores of times to repeal portions of Obamacare, this was the first time they are using a special tool known as “budget reconciliation” that allow the measure to clear the Senate with just 51 votes instead of the 60 votes typically required for major legislation. That higher threshold has allowed Democrats to block all past repeal efforts.
Here’s what Jeff Sessions said about it at the time:
“It demonstrates that if you have a president prepared to support health care reform, it could pass next time,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, a vocal critic of the Affordable Care Act who insisted this was not a show vote just because the President will veto the bill. “If this vote occurred after the next presidential election, instead of vetoing it the President would sign it. This would force a bipartisan reevaluation of health care in America and put us in a position to make major changes.”
That was a month ago. Now, we have this:
Within hours of reconvening Tuesday, the GOP-led Congress will finally act to fulfill a 2010 promise to repeal and replace ObamaCare.
The effort is set to begin Tuesday afternoon when the House Rules Committee meets on the repeal measure, with a full debate and vote as early as Tuesday [actually, Wednesday]. With the Republican-led Senate having already passed its version, GOP congressional leaders will send the measure to President Obama, daring him to veto it.
Obama will undoubtedly veto the measure to undo his signature health care law, and Congress has nowhere near the votes to override a presidential veto.
But Republicans hope the entire exercise might start to change the circumstance on Capitol Hill regarding the years-old argument about ObamaCare and its repeal.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is promising to unveil a bill to, in fact, replace ObamaCare…
…[W]ith Ryan now at the helm in the House and the GOP controlling the Senate, this may be one of the few chances the party has to come together around a bill which would replace the six-year-old law…
Ryan won’t be able to implement the replacement package either with Obama still in the White House in 2016 — if it does, in fact, get that far. But if Ryan’s successful, he’ll have come a lot further than anyone else has before.
Read the rest of the article, which describes the reconciliation process.
Obama will veto it, but:
The GOP hopes it can artfully message its plans to design and approve a replacement bill for ObamaCare — with something with a lot more policy teeth than the other parliamentary gymnastics of just voting to repeal parts or all of the legislation over and over again.
Republicans also are hoping the public embraces these policy ideas as a contrast to those propounded by Obama and Democrats with health care topping the list.
Republicans didn’t control the Senate until a year ago. But when they took control, many people (and I was initially one of them) were hoping that Congress would be placing bill after bill on Obama’s desk—bills he would veto, but which would highlight what he was blocking and show what the Republicans stood for in contrast. That didn’t happen, and the reason was probably threefold, in no particular order: Boehner’s “leadership,” the Senate filibuster giving the Democrats the power to block legislation there, and a lack of understanding or perhaps caring on the part of some of the more moderate Republicans about how angry the base had become. Now Boehner is no longer in charge, and Congress seems to have taken in some of the message about the rage.
The filibuster is still in place. However, the reconciliation process—which can only be used for certain bills, not all of them—is perfect for this one. And it’s nicely ironic, because that’s the way Obamacare was sneaked by in the first place.
[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]