Repealing ObamaCare – the most famous and oft-repeated campaign promise in American history – is not yet dead, if the House Freedom Caucus and President Trump have anything to say about it. Despite the Senate’s failure last month to pass an Obamacare repeal bill, they haven’t given up on repealing this odious law, and neither have the conservative grassroots who gave Republicans their majorities in both the House and Senate based largely on that promise.
The House, you’ll recall, passed H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act – the comprehensive “repeal and replace” reconciliation bill – by a vote of 217-213 on May 4. It was eventually sent to the Senate, which considered it the final week of July. When key amendments failed to garner majority support, Leader McConnell withdrew the measure from consideration, leaving open the possibility of bringing the bill back to the floor later, if developments warranted.
What developments would warrant a second attempt in the Senate? Pressure from the House, if the members of the House Freedom Caucus have their way.
These House conservatives want to start by having the House vote on a “clean” repeal-only bill, without any elements of a replacementplan included – in other words, a replay of the 2015 repeal-only bill that passed both houses and was vetoed by then-President Obama.
That bill, H.R. 3762, the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015, passed by a vote of 240-189 in October 2015, with all but one vote in favor coming from the GOP side. Of the 239 Republicans who cast a vote in favor, only seven were replaced by Democrats in the 2016 elections. And of the seven Republicans who opposed the measure, at least three – Colorado’s Ken Buck, and North Carolina’s Mark Meadows and Mark Walker – would almost assuredly vote in favor this time.
That’s somewhere around 235 votes in favor. So it appears the House could pass rather easily a repeal-only bill in 2017.
The Freedom Caucus isn’t waiting for a go-ahead from the House GOP leadership. To that end, Freedom Caucus member U.S. Rep. Tom Garrett of Virginia on July 19 introduced H.Res. 458, a rule providing for consideration of H.R. 1436, the “clean” repeal-only bill introduced by Freedom Caucus members U.S. Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mark Meadows of North Carolina. After letting that resolution sit in the House Rules Committee the appropriate length of time (in this case, seven legislative days), on Friday, August 11, during the House’s brief pro forma session, Rep. Garrett introduced a motion to discharge the rule from the consideration of the Rules Committee – a so-called “discharge petition.”
Three members – Garrett, and Jordan, and Freedom Caucus member Scott Perry – signed the discharge petition upon its introduction. More conservatives – many of whom will be members of the House Freedom Caucus, many of whom will not – will sign it upon their return from Congress’ August recess.
If 218 members sign the discharge petition, the measure will move to the floor for a vote, according to the rules of the House, irrespective of leadership’s wishes.
Of course, if 218 members sign the discharge petition, it will be avery, very good bet that the resulting floor vote would garner majority support. And then the “clean” repeal-only bill would be on the floor of the House, where it would also likely win majority support – who’s going to vote against the underlying bill after having signed a discharge petition and then voted for the rule?
Of course, it’s possible that the measure will fail to garner 218 signatures. In fact, it’s even money that the House GOP leadership will try to ensure this outcome. If the discharge petition fails to get 218 signatures, at least we’ll know whom to pressure next time.
And if it succeeds, and a repeal-only measure passes the House? Then the action moves to the Senate, where some moderates have been pushing back against the notion of a renewed repeal effort, hiding behind the excuse that “the House will never pass a clean repeal-only bill.”
What excuse will they have then?