Early this morning, after a 7-hour marathon of votes on amendments, the U.S. Senate approved S.Con.Res 3, the Budget Resolution for the current federal fiscal year, FY2017, on a vote of 51-48. While Senate leadership referred to the bill as the “Obamacare Repeal Resolution,” it’s important for advocates to know that this bill itself does not make any changes to the law. That said, when (as is expected by the end of the week) the House passes an identical resolution, it puts Congress one step closer to eventual consideration of ACA repeal legislation.
So why does the process start here? As we noted in a blog post last week, this first step is what allows the Congress to use a process called Budget Reconciliation, a fast-track procedure that allows certain kinds of bills to pass the Senate with a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the 60 votes usually necessary to overcome a Senate filibuster. The next step will be for both House and Senate to draft and debate the actual repeal legislation, find common ground enough to pass the bill through both chambers, and send it to soon-to-be-President Donald Trump for his signature or veto.
Increasingly, however, the strategy around ACA repeal is beginning to shift. A greater and greater number of Members, especially in the Senate, are expressing concern about the potential for passing a repeal bill without a clear plan in place for what a replacement for the ACA would look like. Health Center advocates heard that concern repeatedly in meetings this week, as our State Legislative Coordinators and certain Key Contacts flew in to DC and held meetings with Members on the Hill. In his press conference this week, the President-elect seemed to endorse the idea that a replacement must come simultaneously, saying:
“It will be essentially simultaneously. It will be various segments, you understand, but will most likely be on the same day or the same week but probably the same day. Could be the same hour. We’re going to do repeal and replace. Very complicated stuff.”
So while one step has been taken, many more remain. We’ll be keeping track here at Health Centers on the Hill, and reporting regularly. In the meantime, make sure you are making your voice heard with the new Congress and weighing in about the importance of health centers in 2017!