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After health care reform failures, Trump demanding big changes to the Senate

On July 29, 2017, President Donald Trump called on the Republican-led Senate to change its rules so that only 51 votes are needed to end debate, a tactic commonly called the “nuclear option.” (2016 file photo/Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump once again called on the Republican-led Senate to change its rules so that only 51 votes are needed to end debate, a tactic commonly called the “nuclear option.” Trump issued the demands over Twitter Saturday morning, warning the Senate Republicans they will “NEVER win if they don’t go to a 51 vote majority.”

Trump has no authority to force the Senate to change its rules, but in the wake of Senate Republicans’ failure to pass legislation repealing and replacing Obamacare, Trump’s pressure could lead to an attempt by the increasingly desperate Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to alter the Senate’s longstanding requirements.

“Republicans in the Senate will NEVER win if they don't go to a 51 vote majority NOW,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “They look like fools and are just wasting time. … 8 Dems totally control the U.S. Senate. Many great Republican bills will never pass, like Kate's Law and complete Healthcare. Get smart!”

Under the current Senate rules, most legislation can be stifled without at least 60 senators agreeing to end debate. One exception is the budget reconciliation process, which allows the Senate to end debate with a simple majority, but only allows relatively limited bills to be approved.

The Better Care Reconciliation Act, the Senate leadership’s constantly evolving plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, is a bill that can be passed through the budget reconciliation process. However, as a result, the legislation does not include many important reform ideas both conservative and moderate Republicans would like. For instance, many Republicans, including Trump, have called for insurance companies to be empowered to sell health insurance plans across state lines. This is not a provision that can be included in a budget reconciliation bill.

If the Senate rules were to change, some speculate it’s possible moderate Republicans could be convinced to join conservatives in passing a repeal and replace bill, because there would be much more flexibility in how the legislation could be crafted.

In order to change the Senate rules, which the Senate did earlier this year to stop Democrats’ attempt at blocking Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court, only a simple majority of senators would need to vote in favor of the change.

Perhaps the biggest roadblock to a potential change in the Senate’s rules is that some moderate Republicans may also be opposed to this measure as well. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who effectively killed the most recent Obamacare repeal effort in the Senate, said in April “it’s a dark day in the history of the United States Senate,” referring to McConnell’s push to change the rules to get Gorsuch confirmed.

In addition to the two tweets posted above that Trump wrote calling for Senate rule changes, Trump also posted three other tweets calling for the Senate to adopt the nuclear option.

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