At 1:30 in the morning on Thursday, the Senate voted 51-48 to pass a budget resolution that directs House and Senate committees to craft legislation that will fully repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The House is expected to approve the resolution as early as Friday.
Amendments were offered by Democrats, and were struck down by Republicans, to protect mandates such as the requirement that health insurance companies allow young adults under 26 to remain on their parent’s health insurance plan, and the requirement they cover pre-existing conditions.
While speeches are not allowed during votes, multiple Democratic Senators harnessed opportunities to make their objections clear. Senator Duckworth (D-IL), a disabled Iraq war veteran, declared, “For all those with pre-existing conditions, I stand on prosthetic legs to vote no!” When it was Senator Franken’s (D-MN) turn to vote, he stated, “I vote no on behalf of the more than 2.3 million Minnesotans who can no longer be discriminated against because of the ACA!”
Senate budget resolutions are essentially blueprints for Congress. Senate budget resolution votes are typically referred to as vote-a-ramas due to the fact that Senators are allowed to offer an unlimited number of amendments, none of which ever become law, but simply act as a guide for committees. That is why it is troubling that Republicans voted to defeat issue amendments put forward by the Democrats to give guidance to the committees to protect mandates, such as allowing young adults under 26 to stay on their parents health insurance plan and requiring the covering of pre-existing conditions.
After the House and Senate committee’s come up with instructions on how the budget committee should craft its repeal, the deconstruction of the ACA will be packaged into a reconciliation bill, a process that prevents Democrats from filibustering the measure and requires only a 51 vote in the Senate to pass, not the 60 vote threshold required to end a filibuster. It is expected to pass both houses and then head to President Trump’s desk to be signed.
However, a budget reconciliation bill can only repeal the parts of the ACA that have to do with government spending and taxes, not the provisions that require insurance companies to let children under 26 stay on their parent’s health insurance plan or cover people with pre-existing conditions. As NPR point out, however, those are the expensive parts of the law, the cost of which is off-set by the soon-to-be repealed tax subsidies and Medicaid funds that Congress can push in the reconciliation bill.
Last week House Republicans promised that Planned Parenthood would be defunded in the same reconciliation bill that will repeal the ACA.
Media Resources: New York Times 1/11/17, 1/12/17; NPR 1/12/17; Feminist Majority Foundation 1/12/17.