- - Monday, March 13, 2017

The Republican health care bill, the American Health Care Act, faces opposition from not only the Democrats, but from the Republicans themselves. The interparty division can be seen on both ends of the spectrum, from the moderates to the ultra-conservative members of the party. The Republican leadership insists it has the support needed to get the bill to the president’s desk even without a single vote from the Democrats. That road appears to have been harder than anticipated, as the hearings in the House burned the midnight oil to escape the various committees responsible for vetting the bill. It won’t get any easier once the bill hits the Senate floor, either.

Once in the Senate, the Republicans intend to use the process known as reconciliation in order to avoid a never-ending filibuster by the Democrats. The process of reconciliation allows the Senate Republicans to pass the bill with a simple majority vote — but with the caveat that all of the bill’s provisions directly affect the federal budget. That’s where the Republicans will face stiff resistance from the Democrats, as they will surely challenge provisions of the bill that they think do not directly relate to the budget. The obvious targets include the surcharge on people who fail to maintain continuous coverage, the ability of insurers to arbitrarily charge higher rates based on age, and the provisions that eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood.

While the Republican leadership may be confident in its ability to rally its counterparts to support the bill, it faces an uncertain future as it will be required to prove to the Senate parliamentarian that the contested provisions directly affect the federal budget. That will certainly prove to be a major obstacle because the Democrats will do everything in their power to convince the parliamentarian to reject the provisions, effectively killing the health-care bill dead in its tracks.


Vancouver, Wash.

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