Now that Republicans have taken over in Congress, you???re expecting great things, but I wouldn???t hold my breath. You should expect to be disappointed.
Many will have you believe that a full repeal of ObamaCare is not possible, but, in fact, it is. Unfortunately, it may not happen.
All it would take to set the table for full repeal is Republicans growing a spine.
The trillion dollar question is whether the Senate Majority Leader and Speaker of the House will allow a Senate staffer, known as the Senate Parliamentarian, to ruin the one possible plan to send a repeal bill to the president this year.
Republicans can???t use so-called ???regular order??? to pass a repeal bill because Democrats would filibuster, preventing a final vote. That is why some in the Senate have explored the possibility of using the ???reconciliation??? process. Reconciliation allows Senate members to debate a bill for a certain period of time without having to filibuster and presents the only chance of having a bill reach the president???s desk.
The budget resolution is supposed to be an annual process where Congress sets overall budget caps for different spending functions to make sure the annual spending bills are consistent with the caps.
Although the president sends a budget to Congress every year, the congressionally passed budget never is sent to the president for his signature. This is important because it prevents a president from blocking a budget resolution with a veto.
The budget resolution this year can be used to set up a vote on full repeal without the possibility of a filibuster. The Obama Administration used the reconciliation process to pass a critical piece of ObamaCare. Therefore, there is a precedent for the use of reconciliation to deal with it.
Alex Bolton of The Hill reports that the Republican plan to use reconciliation to repeal ObamaCare has hit a procedural speed bump:
The Senate???s chief referee has dealt a significant setback to conservatives who want to send an ObamaCare repeal bill to the president???s desk this year. GOP sources say Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough has raised red flags in response to queries about whether it???s possible to use a special budgetary procedure to repeal the controversial law ???root and branch,??? as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said.
It is true that the Senate Parliamentarian has raised red flags, but to those who understand the process, the concerns do not rise to the level of defeat.
Bolton reported that the Republican interpretation of the rules is not getting a favorable reception, yet there is a strong argument that Senate Republicans are right:
Some conservatives argue that because ObamaCare impacts spending and revenue, 51 Senate Republicans and a majority of the House can pass a one-sentence provision. While President Obama would surely veto a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, many Republicans want to get such a measure on his desk.
The spokesman for Heritage Action for America (HAFA), Dan Holler, agreed when he argued that ???we think from what we???ve heard there???s a really credible case to be made that the one-sentence repeal instruction for reconciliation passes all the tests.???
And the truth of the matter is that is all you need is a credible argument ??? in addition to that spine.
One important fact that is not reported and/or frequently confused by news outlets is that the Senate Parliamentarian is not a constitutional officer. As a result, the opinion of a mere Senate staffer is nothing more than an informed recommendation.
This is an easy call for Republicans. They need to ignore the recommendation of the Senate Parliamentarian and let the Senate vote on an interpretation of the rules and forge forward.
Think about this debate in terms of the Nuclear Option. The Democrats used that ploy to destroy the idea of a filibuster of judicial nominees. They changed the rules by breaking the explicit terms in the rules that say you need 60 votes to end debate on a nominee. That was a perversion of the Senate???s rules and should not stand.
This case is very different. The Senate would be dealing with an interpretation of reconciliation rules. A ruling would be a mere disagreement on the interpretation of budget rules that could go either way.
If Congressional Republicans are willing to fight, they can get this done.
If, on the other hand, Republicans end up blaming a Senate staffer for upsetting their plan to get rid of ObamaCare ,???root and branch,??? then conservatives will confirm a persistent fear that they were never really serious about repeal.