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GOP enshrining heart of Obamacare in budget reconciliation bill

Conservative Review

As if the GOP Congress has not done enough already to sabotage the conservative message for 2017, they are now preparing to squander the budget reconciliation effort and use it to push only partial repeal of Obamacare. 

What’s worse, they are implicitly blessing the foundational aspects of Obamacare and hurting the long-term prospects of free market health care policy by acquiescing to the inevitability of health insurance coverage mandates and permanent subsidies, while concurrently ruling out the only viable path to repealing the leviathan in its entirety.

Once upon a time, budget reconciliation provided us with a solid opportunity to build momentum against Obamacare by bringing a full repeal bill to Obama’s desk and vividly illustrating for the voters the need to elect a Republican president.

Everyone would see how close we are to restoring the ability of middle-class families to live in dignity and be empowered to purchase their own affordable insurance plan. At this point, with Republicans failing to mount a robust national campaign to make it an issue, it’s probably better they scuttle the entire idea.

Essential Elements Missing from the Reconciliation Bill

It’s no coincidence that these essential elements are missing from the repeal bill. 

Most Republicans subscribe to Mitt Romney’s position on Obamacare. During the presidential election, Romney only criticized the taxes, Medicare cuts, and the individual mandate (on a federal level). But he never took a swipe at the core of the law – the anti-market mandates and subsidies – the meat and potatoes of Obamacare. The reality is that most Republicans don’t really believe in free market health care and were never committed to abolishing the aspects of the law not opposed by K Street.

Either way, Obama will veto any reconciliation bill that contains repeal of even one portion of his law. But the purpose of reconciliation was to lay down a clear marker as to where Republicans stand on the issue and help them win back the White House so they can fulfill their promise. By passing this version of reconciliation they will permanently undermine that messaging.

Not wanting to admit they love the subsidies and mandates, Republicans have come up with an excuse by contending that Senate rules only allow the budgetary aspects of Obamacare to be repealed through reconciliation.

They are asserting that under the “Byrd Rule” of the 1974 Budget Act, each individual provision repealed through budget reconciliation must result in net budget savings, and as such, the regulatory components of Obamacare can’t be repealed through this process (although this argument does not explain their reluctance to include repeal of the subsidies, which would clearly result in net budget savings).

Even if Republicans truly believe this excuse and are not just trying to wiggle out of full repeal, their unwillingness to assert their power over the chamber they control is even more disturbing in the long run. As Heritage Action has noted, there is no reason Republicans can’t package together a one-sentence repeal in reconciliation on the Obamacare law in totality and score it as the massive net savings it is.  Since when were Senate rules tantamount to judicial review in that each section can be severed out and judged on its own merits for compliance with the rules?

But won’t the Parliamentarian rule with the Democrats that these provisions are severable and not eligible for reconciliation, you might ask? Sure, but given that elected. Republicans control the chamber and preside over the chair, they don’t have to follow the recommendation from the unelected parliamentarian. They can define the rules of the chamber.  

At some point, Republicans are going to have to push the envelope to restore the republic. What is so disturbing about this excuse is that, if Republicans are unwilling to fight the conventional wisdom on rules and use their control over the chamber to interpret the rules in a way that will allow them to repeal Obamacare, they will never repeal it with a Republican president either. That is the dirty little secret. 

They will run into the same problems getting a repeal bill to the president’s desk and will be forced to use reconciliation.

We live in a constitutional republic in which the peoples’ will is expressed through majoritarian rule through the “predominant” branch of government – the legislature. First we are told that the Courts have final say over all political issues and the elected representatives can’t do a thing about it. Now we are told they can’t even interpret the laws of their own chamber when in the majority in order to repeal something that was clearly a violation of the Constitution to begin with.

At some point, we will reach rock bottom when the public no longer accepts these lame excuses. And that time is rapidly approaching.         

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