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Republicans Will Use the Budget as a Weapon Against Obamacare

"...Republicans can repeal the president's health law..."

AP Photo.

Senate Republicans on Wednesday announced an ambitious plan to repeal Obamacare, one that involves passage of a budget that cuts trillions of dollars in spending over the next decade.

Senate Budget Committee leaders revealed their proposed budget plan today, and in that plan is a process known as "reconciliation" that will lead to the creation of privileged legislation to repeal the health care law. Unlike other bills, that privileged legislation could be quickly considered and passed in the Senate even over objections from Democrats.

AP Photo. Republicans in Congress will try to use the budget process to repeal Obamacare later this year. Image: AP Photo

It's a process that Republicans have been considering since they won both the House and Senate in the November elections.

Under the GOP's reconciliation plan, the House and Senate would pass a budget resolution that includes instructions to the Appropriations Committees to write legislation that "reconciles" that budget. That would include legislation to repeal Obamacare.

That outline of what that legislation would look like is vague for now, because the Supreme Court is set to rule on a key part of the law this summer. Specifically, the Court will decide whether people using the federal government's health insurance exchange can receive subsidies.

A bill to repeal the law could change radically depending on the outcome of that ruling, so the GOP's budget plan gives members as much flexibility as possible to write a repeal bill later this year.

"[T]he Senate Republican budget includes reconciliation instructions for health care, but the actual contours of that legislation are unknowable at this time," a summary of the budget stated. "By adopting this new budget, Republicans can repeal the president's health law and the committees of jurisdiction can continue to work on plans to replace it."

The budget also calls for the Committees on Finance and Health to find $1 billion in savings under Obamacare.

Once these bills are written, they would likely be passed easily in both the House and the Senate with only Republican support, if necessary.

The strength of the plan is it would let Republicans dodge Democratic protests in the Senate. Normally, bills in the Senate need approval from a supermajority in the Senate, a requirement that has recently made it difficult to pass bills to fund the Department of Homeland Security, and to offer help to victims of human trafficking.

It's also not unheard of to use this strategy — the tax cuts under George W. Bush were passed into law this way.

The downside, however, is that President Barack Obama could veto it, and send it back to a Congress that is unlikely to be in a position to override that veto.

In January, Republicans indicated that they would try this process nonetheless, even if just to continue to force Democrats to defend the law.

Republicans in the House and Senate have each introduced their budget plans now. The House budget would balance in 9 years and cut $5.5 trillion over the next decade. The Senate's plan is similar, and both call for the repeal of Obamacare.

One last thing…
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