- The Washington Times - Monday, September 28, 2015

Republicans in charge of top House committees want to use a fast-track budget tool to take a big bite out of Obamacare and redirect funding away from Planned Parenthood amid controversy over its abortion practice.

Saying it’s “time to put an Obamacare repeal bill on the president’s desk,” the Ways and Means Committee will vote Tuesday to scrap the 2010 law’s most unpopular taxes and mandates through budget “reconciliation.”

That includes the controversial individual mandate requiring Americans to hold health insurance. Without the mandate, the law’s delicate economics would likely fall apart, blowing a hole in President Obama’s signature law.

Budget reconciliation is a complex budget tool that allows Congress to forge new legislation while avoiding a filibuster in the Senate. Democrats used the tool to help pass Obamacare in 2010, although Mr. Obama would still maintain a veto over whatever Congress passes this time around.

For months, Republicans have eyed the budget tool as their best shot at denting Obamacare, although Planned Parenthood joined the reconciliation wish-list after the release of videos that appear to show the organization’s officials negotiating the sale of fetal body parts to be used in research.

Hoping to avert a government shutdown this week, GOP leaders are pushing the reconciliation path and other pro-life maneuvers, including a special House panel to investigate Planned Parenthood, as a way to mollify hardline conservative who’ve refused to accept any short-term funding bill that includes funding for the controversial organization.

The Energy and Commerce Committee will mark up legislation Tuesday that urges the House to redirect funding from Planned Parenthood to community health centers and repeal the Public Health and Prevention Fund, a piece of Obamacare that Republican have decried as a “slush fund.”

Almost simultaneously, Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan and his GOP colleagues will vote to repeal Obamacare’s insurance mandates on individuals and employers and a yet-to-be-appointed panel, known as “IPAB,” that was designed to rein in Medicare costs but has been derided by Republicans as an attempt to ration care.

The committee will also move to repeal the health law’s 2.3 percent excise tax on medical device sales and the so-called “Cadillac tax” that will impose a levy on generous employer health plans starting in 2018.

Instructions in the GOP-authored, fiscal 2016 budget instructed the Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce and Education and the Workforce committees each to draft recommendation for reducing the deficit by at least $1 billion.

The Education and Workforce Committee will meet Wednesday to consider a reconciliation proposal that repeals Obamacare’s “auto-enrollment mandate” on companies with 200 or more full-time workers. The rule automatically enrolls new employees — and re-enrolls existing ones — into a company health plan if the worker fails to affirmatively select a plan or opt out of coverage.

Although the administration hasn’t issued final regulations to implement the rule, GOP lawmakers say it already is sowing confusion.

The committee chairmen blew by a midsummer deadline to produce those recommendations, yet budget instructions remain in place until they’re supplanted by a new budget, so the cutoff date was virtually meaningless.

With a plan taking shape, House Budget Committee is slated to compile the various recommendation into a unified bill for the chamber to consider in the coming weeks.

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