GOP Health Care Bill Heads to Skeptical Senate

Republicans pin hopes on “reconciliation” tool

When the just-passed House measure to overhaul the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) reaches the Senate, the bill is expected to undergo sweeping changes that might leave it unrecognizable—perhaps stripping away some of the provisions that helped earn the support of far-right House members, according to an article in The New York Times.

The Republicans’ narrow 52-member majority in the Senate leaves little room for defections, and several Republican senators have already worried aloud about the House measure. Their concerns include insurance costs for poorer, older Americans and funding issues in states with high populations of hard-to-insure people, according to the article.

Another chief obstacle is reconciling the reservations of Republican senators from states that expanded Medicaid under the PPACA, whose constituents would face rollbacks under the House bill.

“Don’t know what’s in it,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said before the vote. “Waiting to see if it’s a boy or a girl.”

“But any bill that has been posted less than 24 hours—going to be debated three or four hours, not scored—needs to be viewed with suspicion,” he said, noting that the House vote came without an assessment from the Congressional Budget Office on the latest version’s price and impact.

Another potential stumbling block is the Senate parliamentarian. Republicans plan to use a procedural tool known as reconciliation in the hope of passing the bill with a simple majority, rather than having to clear a 60-vote threshold with Democratic assistance. Reconciliation rules allow changes on matters of taxes and spending, but not broader policy changes.

If the threshold for passage is raised, requiring help from Democrats, the minority party is unlikely to offer a lifeline, the Times says.

Source: The New York Times; May 4, 2017.