When Americans went around the table last Thursday to say what they were grateful for, ObamaCare probably wasn’t one of them. Despite the millions spent in PR, the president’s disaster of a health care law hasn’t made it out of the basement of public opinion in months. The bottom-dwelling numbers continued in last week’s polls, with barely 38 percent approval for a law that was supposed to usher in a new era of affordable care.
Well, it’s ushered in a new era all right — but a devastating one for personal choice, freedom, cost, employment, life, and treatment options. After “gazillions” (as Huffington Post puts it) of repeal attempts, the Senate’s 16th vote will be its most significant. If Republican leaders can find a simple majority to support repeal, it will mark the first time that both chambers have sent a rollback of ObamaCare to the desk of its namesake. “Obviously,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters, “we’re not anticipating a presidential signature, but I think the president should have to take credit for the debacle that this legislation has created.”
And what a debacle it is. With challenges to the law backlogging the courts and businesses imploding under the weight of it, Republicans are hoping to capitalize on the country’s disgust with the biggest show of force yet. Using the rare budget reconciliation process, conservatives are just steps away from gutting the loathed law. After smooth sailing through the House, the bill has taken its share of twists and turns in the Senate. First, the parliamentarian had to agree that the legislation qualified under the strict rules of reconciliation. Late yesterday, she seemed to be satisfied with the changes Republicans made to the bill and gave the thumbs up to the Senate’s modifications.
Among other things, the measure would scrap the subsidies for people who buy insurance through the health care exchanges, stop the expansion of Medicaid, torpedo the tax hikes, and block Health and Human Services from running a federal exchange after 2018. In many ways, it’s an even deeper blow to ObamaCare than the House bill. And according to the Congressional Budget Office, it saves the country more money too. Under the Senate’s version of the repeal, Congress would be slashing the deficit by $105.5 billion over the next 10 years ($27 billion more than the House’s bill). “By the time we are done,” Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wy.) promised, “the legislation the Senate passes will eliminate more than $1 trillion in tax increases placed on the American people, while saving more than $500 billion in spending.”
First, though, the Senate will have to jump through the procedural hoops, which call for 20 hours of debate and the legendary vote-o-rama, a frenzy of rapid-fire amendments. As it has for years, the Senate will use this crazy budget free-for-all to offer an unlimited number of amendments without worrying about filibusters. That usually means senators will take the opportunity to make a political point — or try to get their colleagues on the record on an issue that they can use to their advantage in campaign ads later on. Democrats, for example, will use this window of opportunity to try and strike the language defunding Planned Parenthood.
All of that is expected to take place over the next two days — with a final vote on the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act as early as Thursday or Friday. All told, the GOP can afford to lose three Republicans in its quest for 51 and still pass the bill. Once they do, both chambers will be able go home knowing that they’ve done everything in their power to repeal ObamaCare along with the lion’s share of taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood. If President Obama refuses to sign the bill, the record will show that he didn’t just ignore the will of Congress — but the people.