Republicans May Try Reconciliation for Health Repeal in 2013

Should they win control of the U.S. Senate and the White House in November, Republicans say they would consider using a fast-track budget process to repeal parts of President Barack Obama’s 2010 health-care overhaul.

“In the House we are prepared to do that and I’m sure if you speak to my colleagues in the Senate they are as well,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, said today in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “This is a big deal for the American people. Health care is one of the most personal decisions that families make, that’s what at stake here.”

The fast-track budget procedure, known as reconciliation, allows lawmakers to bypass a Senate filibuster by lowering the threshold for passage of certain legislation in that chamber from 60 votes to a simple majority.

Cantor’s comments came a day after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the core of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, ruling that Congress has the authority to require Americans to carry health insurance or pay a penalty.

House Republican leaders immediately announced that the chamber, which has voted 30 times to eliminate, defund or scale back parts or all of the health-care law, will vote again July 11 on repeal. Days after taking control of the House in January 2011, all of the chamber’s Republicans and three Democrats voted to pass a measure ending the health-care law.

Senate Majority

Efforts to repeal or chip away at the health-care law have died in the U.S. Senate, where Democrats have a 53-seat majority.

Republicans say the best chance for success in their repeal efforts lies in winning control of the Senate and electing Republican Mitt Romney as president in November.

Even then it would be a challenge to muster the 60 votes needed to overcome a Democratic filibuster in the Senate. Republicans could try to bypass a filibuster by using the reconciliation process.

“There have never been 60 popularly elected Republican senators,” said Senator Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, in an interview. “So whatever we’re able to do legislatively in the Senate, reconciliation becomes really important.”

Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said, “It’s always better if you can deal with something in a normal legislative fashion,” adding that it was premature to discuss options for repeal in 2013 without knowing the outcome of the election.

‘Just Talk’

“Right now, until we know what the makeup of the Senate’s going to be this next year and who’s president, all the talk is just that, just talk,” Corker said in an interview.

The House’s chief tax writer, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, today didn’t rule out the possibility of using reconciliation to repeal the law if Republicans were to control both chambers of Congress and the White House next year.

“I’d like to repeal the bill,” Camp, a Michigan Republican, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt” airing this weekend. “And I’d like to do it however we can, because I do think it -- this -- imposing the federal government between individuals and their doctors is still wrong. And just because something’s constitutional doesn’t make it a good law.”

Gallup Poll

A nationwide USA Today-Gallup poll of 1,012 adults surveyed after yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling showed a 46-46 percent split on whether they agreed with the decision. Seventy-nine percent of Democrats agreed with the ruling, 83 percent of Republicans disagreed, and independents were split with 45 percent in favor and 42 percent opposing the decision.

Democrats, who controlled the House and Senate in 2009 and 2010 when Congress was considering the health care law, turned to reconciliation to pass the law after they lost their 60-seat Senate majority in January 2010 with the election of Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown.

In both chambers of Congress, Democrats provided all of the votes for the health-care measure. They lost control of the House in the 2010 midterm elections.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, told reporters yesterday that the prospect of a Republican-controlled Senate using the fast-track process to push repeal was “all the more reason that the American people should understand” that Democrats “want to focus on jobs, not taking away benefits that millions of Americans have today for sure.”

Policy Provisions

Because reconciliation applies only to measures that affect spending or revenue, many policy provisions in the health-care law probably would fall outside the scope of it, meaning the tool could be used to repeal part, not all, of the law.

Though Democrats control the Senate’s agenda, Republicans in the chamber have pledged to press ahead with repeal efforts.

“Yesterday’s decision gives us the clearest proof yet that this bill has to go,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said today. “It needs to be repealed to clear the way for common sense, step-by-step reforms that protect Americans’ access to the care they need, from the doctor they choose, at a lower cost. And that’s precisely what Republicans intend to.”

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