Friday, June 26, 2015

Republicans, Stunned by the Supreme Court, Plot Next Anti-Obamacare Moves

Rep. Tom Price tears a page from the health care bill during a press conference at the Capitol on March 21, 2012.(Win McNamee/Getty)
 Congressional Republicans were in a state of shock Thursday after the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare's insurance subsidies nationwide, but they quickly laid out next steps in their quest to repeal the health care law.
"Everybody's stunned," said Rep. Dave Brat, a Virginia Republican. "I think the logic and the plain language was going to be the other direction. … This is a stunner."
"I'm surprised," said House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions of Texas. "I believe it is unlawful and unconstitutional for us to have tax provisions where people in different states are dealt with different ways."
For months, Republicans have been crafting a post-King v. Burwell strategy, confident the Court would rule in their favor and strike down the law's insurance subsidies in 34 states using the federal insurance marketplace. They had planned to use the opportunity to extract major concessions from President Obama, like repealing the individual mandate, hoping a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs—which would have left 6 million people without the tax credits that many need to be able to afford their insurance plans—would force the president to cave.
Now, some Republicans are returning to a long-shot legislative strategy to repeal the law: budget reconciliation. "I would anticipate that we would move in the direction of repealing all Obamacare that can be repealed through reconciliation," said House Budget Chairman Tom Price of Georgia.
Republicans left the reconciliation language broad in the budget resolution that they passed earlier this year, which Price said should allow them to repeal major parts of the health care law. "That was clearly contemplated in our budget to allow for the committees of jurisdiction that deal with health care to be the ones that will be offering reconciliation proposals," Price said.
The budget-reconciliation rule allows the Senate to bypass the need for a 60-vote threshold to complete action on a bill, muting the minority party's ability to block the bill. A similar technique was used to pass Obamacare.
If Republicans carry through with their threat, there is no doubt that Obama would veto the legislation. But Price said that isn't the point. "The goal is to have the American people speak to their representatives in numbers large enough to be able to get this administration to move in the right direction, or the next administration to move in the right direction."
Unfortunately for Republicans, the budget-reconciliation process limits lawmakers' ability to add new policy, which means the technique can be used only to repeal the parts of the law that deal with revenue and spending. That technique wouldn't dismantle the entire law, but it could certainly do enough damage to it to make it unworkable.
House Speaker John Boehner would not commit to any specific future plan in his post-ruling remarks, noting that much of the GOP dialogue was about what to do following a Supreme Court victory.

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