According to a new determination by the Senate parliamentarian, some of the most controversial parts of Senate Republicans’ bill to repeal and replace Obamacare violate Senate rules and will thus require 60 votes to pass instead of 51.
The parliamentarian found that key provisions violate the Byrd rule, which prohibits the Senate from including irrelevant matters as part of a reconciliation deal. Republican leadership is pushing the health care bill through as part of the budget reconciliation process in the hopes of passing the bill with a simple majority, thus avoiding filibuster by Democratic legislators.
Parts of the bill that will require 60 votes include defunding Planned Parenthood, a six-month waiting period for purchasing insurance after a lapse in coverage, and restrictions on tax credits for insurance plans that cover abortion. If the bill is not changed before a vote, the 60-vote threshold means it’s unlikely that these parts of the bill will pass, as they would require significant bipartisan support.
Provisions deemed impermissible by the parliamentarian can be stripped from the bill if any Senator challenges it on the Senate floor, which seems likely given Democrats’ unified opposition to the bill.
“We will challenge every one of them,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told the Hill.
Some parts of the bill do not violate the Byrd rule, like the provision that allows states to mandate a work requirement for certain Medicaid enrollees. And the controversial Cruz Amendment, which would allow insurers to sell plans that don’t meet requirements under the Affordable Care Act, has yet to be looked at by the parliamentarian.
Despite repeated failures to win over a critical mass of Republican support for his push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has suggested that the Senate will vote on the newest health care bill as early as next week — without a clearly defined plan for what exactly lawmakers will be voting on.
On Thursday, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), the Senate’s second-ranking Republican, told the Hill that lawmakers don’t have the “luxury” of learning what exactly Republicans plan to do with healthcare, whether that’s considering a revised version of Trumpcare, voting on a clean repeal of the Affordable Care Act, or something else entirely.
Cornyn claimed that the Affordable Care Act was essentially in the process of imploding, arguing that lawmakers needed to rush forward with an alternative to save the healthcare system. That view is not shared by the Congressional Budget Office, which found in March that the Affordable Care Act remains stable “in most areas.”
Cornyn’s view is shared, however, by President Trump, who repeated his oft-used line about the impending failure of the Affordable Care Act on Saturday morning.
During an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday, Trump indicated he may not know how health insurance works.
A new report from the Congressional Budget Office found that the newest version of the Republican’s health care bill would leave 22 million people without insurance over the next decade.