McConnell Promises Quick Obamacare Repeal—But Then What?

Replacement could be years away

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Kentucky) has announced to the press that the Senate will move to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) shortly after January 1, but he declined to give a timeline for a plan to replace it, according to a Reuters report.

McConnell said the Senate would vote to repeal the PPACA as soon as it returns from its year-end recess. “And then we will work expeditiously to come up with a better program than current law, because current law is simply unacceptable and not sustainable,” he said.

Asked repeatedly, McConnell declined to give a timeline for when the Republicans would offer a replacement plan.

The process of repealing the PPACA would start on January 3, when the new Congress is expected to pass a bill rescinding the act’s revenue and spending portions using the budget reconciliation process. The advantage of a reconciliation bill is that it circumvents any attempts by minority Democrats to mount a filibuster, making it possible for Republicans to pass the bill with their 52-seat majority.

The disadvantage of using reconciliation is that such a bill can include only measures that directly affect the federal budget. Repealing other aspects of the PPACA, including rules on how insurers operate, would require a separate step, as would passing a replacement plan. That would have to be done via regular legislation, which would require 60 votes.

Some Republicans have suggested taking as long as three years to craft a replacement for the PPACA.

Sources: Reuters; December 12, 2016; and Huffington Post; December 12, 2016.