March 24th, 2017
U.S. Representative Long’s “Short Report” 3/24/17
I hear it all the time; "With Republicans controlling the House, Senate and White House you should be getting more done. Why can't you push the President's agenda through?" The answer is simple: the Senate has what some consider an arcane rule that must gain 60 votes for cloture. What that means is that the Senate must have 60 votes to break a filibuster in order for a bill to pass. This is why we are using reconciliation to repeal and replace Obamacare.
The reconciliation process was part of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, which sets out a list of procedures that allow House and Senate committees to produce legislation that can later be passed by a simple majority in the Senate. Since being enacted, policymakers have used reconciliation for 20 budget bills. The last time it was used was in 2016 to repeal key areas of Obamacare, although the legislation was vetoed by President Obama.
The reconciliation process allows for quick and easy movement of a bill. In order to begin the process, both the House and the Senate must first pass a budget resolution that includes reconciliation instructions. This budget resolution can be passed by a simple majority in the Senate needing only 51 votes rather than the 60 votes required to break a filibuster. Once the reconciliation bill goes to the Senate it is limited to only 20 hours of debate and requires, just like the budget resolution, only a simple majority to pass.
What’s unique about the Senate’s process is the Byrd Rule, which was also part of the Budget Act. This rule blocks any provision in a reconciliation bill that does not directly impact taxes and spending. To put it simply, it means that the American Healthcare Act (AHCA) can only include policies that deal directly with budgetary items, such as spending and revenue.
This is why our approach to reforming health care includes three phases: 1) repeal and replace Obamacare through the reconciliation process; 2) remove burdensome regulations under the direction of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price which Obamacare gave the secretary of HHS the latitude to do; 3) enact additional free-market reforms that cannot be included in the reconciliation process, such as medical liability reform and allowing people to purchase health insurance across state lines. The third phase will require bipartisan cooperation as it will need to meet the 60-vote threshold.
While it may be confusing to some, this is the only way to get this legislation passed, signed by the President and enacted into law. So when you hear that repealing and replacing Obamacare is being done in three phases, I hope this helps better explain why.
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