A Republican-controlled Congress may never vote to repeal Obamacare. Because it might be blocked by Republicans.
You read that right. The GOP, which has exactly zero members of Congress who voted in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010 and has made killing the law its central policy goal of the past five years, may be responsible for preventing any legislation aimed at crippling the law.
To be clear, the PPACA is all but assured to survive until at least the end of President Obama’s term, so the current discussion over repeal efforts is largely symbolic. If the GOP can get a repeal bill through both houses of Congress, it will send a message to the public that it will be able to undo the health law in 2017 if there is a Republican in the White House.
But the recent plan to try to repeal certain funding-related provisions of the law — specifically the controversial Cadillac Tax and the individual and employer insurance mandates — is unraveling in the face of a revolt from the party’s most conservative members, who believe that a partial repeal is a feeble forfeit.
Despite assurances from GOP leaders that only a bill that narrowly focuses on funding mechanisms can be passed in accordance with Senate rules, some argue that a broader repeal bill could make it through as well. If Republicans opt for a broader repeal bill, there is a risk that the Senate parliamentarian –– a nonpartisan official –– will rule that the bill cannot be passed through the “reconciliation” process, a unique legislative maneuver that is the GOP’s only hopes of avoiding a Democratic filibuster of the bill.
Surprisingly, the revolt is not only coming from the House of Representatives, where the most extreme ideologues in both parties are typically found. The House easily passed the partial repeal bill last week, with 239 Republicans voting in favor and only seven against. That vote came despite intense lobbying from an influential conservative group, Heritage Action America, against a partial repeal bill.
The problems are instead coming in the Senate, where the GOP’s ability to pass a bill is seriously threatened by the announcement from three Republican senators — including presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz — will not support a bill that only partially repeals the legislation that they have promised in campaigns to undo entirely.
With only 54 Republicans in the Senate, one more GOP defection will prevent the majority party from passing the bill.
But it’s not just another conservative that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has to worry about losing. Three Republicans in the Senate who support abortion rights are being scrutinized as possible no votes on the repeal bill because it includes a provision that would cut funding from Planned Parenthood for a year. Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois are all dodging questions on the matter, according to Politico.