ACA Repeal Bill Doesn’t Really Repeal the Law
After months of promises to the party’s base supporters, congressional Republican leaders are readying a bill that would repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), using the same procedural tool used to pass it into law.
It’s called “reconciliation,” and it allows a majority party to bypass the threat of a filibuster in the Senate, which requires 60 votes to break. Well, there’s actually more to it. A January 2010 explainer from NPR notes that reconciliation comes from “a provision of the 1974 Congressional Budget Act” and “is designed to force committees to make changes in mandatory – or entitlement – spending and revenues, such as Medicare.
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It was conceived by lawmakers as a way to bring down the deficit by easing the path for budget and tax deals.”
Without getting into the details and controversy surrounding reconciliation, which has been used to pass several bills, including the ACA and the bipartisan Welfare Reform Act of 1996, Republicans hope to use it to repeal the 2010 healthcare law. But they’re finding opposition from conservatives. Why? Because it targets provisions that have a budgetary impact, as is the case with reconciliation.
It’s true that the reconciliation bill – the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act – will eliminate many harmful provisions of the ACA, including the individual mandate, the employer mandate, and the medical device tax. But regulations requiring that health plans carry certain benefits that are driving up the cost of coverage, for example, will remain in place.
Still, House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-GA, insists the bill is the right move. “Under this year’s balanced budget agreement, Congress has the opportunity to use a powerful but limited legislative process to advance a bill to the president’s desk that will target ACA – a law that is doing real harm to individuals, families, physicians, workers and job creators – and help pave the way for patient-centered health care reform,” Price said in a statement.
“The bill repeals punitive taxes and mandates, an unelected, unaccountable board of bureaucrats empowered to effectively deny care to seniors, undue demands on employers and employees, and an ACA slush fund. The bill also imposes a one-year moratorium on taxpayer dollars being used to pay abortion providers that are prohibited under the legislation while increasing resources to community health centers,” he added.
Heritage Action, one of the conservative groups opposed to ACA, has come out against the bill to repeal the law because of its limited impact. “[T]here’s frustration with the path that leadership’s taking,” a spokesman for the group told The Hill on Tuesday.
Absent the reconciliation process, Senate Republicans, who hold 54 seats in the chamber, wouldn’t be able to move it to the president’s desk. Of course, regardless of whether a bill to repeal the ACA passes Congress, the White House has threatened a veto, which almost certainly won’t be overridden because neither chamber has a veto-proof majority.
Passage of ACA repeal using reconciliation would be a statement. It would mark the first time Republicans have successfully moved legislation on the matter through Congress. But without control of the White House, it simply won’t be feasible until at least January 2017.