Legislative Activity

House and Senate Pass FY 2017 Budget Resolution to Set into Motion the Repeal of Obamacare

Last week, Congress passed a budget resolution (S Con Res 3) that will serve as a first step in paving the way for budget reconciliation and eventual repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148), also known as “Obamacare.” The budget resolution is a non-binding spending blueprint, and because it is not an act of law, it does not require the President’s signature. See our previous post for details of the reconciliation process.  Congressional Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), have labeled the resolution as a placeholder (simply to set into motion the repeal of Obamacare) and are promising that a “real budget” for Fiscal Year 2018 will be introduced, debated, and voted on in short order.

The Senate passed its budget resolution on January 12 by a vote of 51-48. Although amendments would not be binding, there were over 100 filed in advance of the Senate’s “vote-a-rama” last week.  However, only 19 votes were taken.  Of note, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) proposed an amendment that would put a freeze on budget spending beginning in Fiscal Year 2018, but the amendment failed by a 14-83 vote.  The amendment would have resulted in a budget cut of trillions of dollars and the U.S. deficit being fully eliminated in as soon as five years. Additionally, Senate Democrats offered several amendments that were either not voted on or failed to receive enough affirmative votes to pass. For example, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) offered an amendment, that ultimately failed, that would have prohibited cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, something President-elect Trump has pledged not to do.  Additionally, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) offered an amendment that contained the “Conrad Rule” which bars a reconciliation package that would allow the deficit to increase over a ten-year period; however, the amendment was never considered.   Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) also proposed an amendment that was never considered that would have forced points of order in the event that reconciliation legislation would worsen the financial solvency of Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund.

Once the legislation reached the House chamber, the House Committee on Rules met and issued a “closed rule” prohibiting any amendments from being considered on the House floor. On January 13, the House passed S Con Res 3 by a vote of 227-198, with nine Republicans joining Democrats in voting against the measure.    While not included in the recently passed resolution, Speaker Ryan continues to promise that Republicans still plan to include measures that would ultimately defund Planned Parenthood as they move forward with repeal of the Affordable Care Act.