Planned Parenthood and Parliamentary Games
No more excuses. That’s the message from yesterday’s Senate news. After weeks of worrying that their budget reconciliation bill would hit a procedural wall, conservatives can finally exhale. According to leadership staff, Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough gave the thumbs up to the GOP’s plan to defund Planned Parenthood through the expedited budgetary process.
Don Stewart, part of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) team, told reporters, “Today the Senate Parliamentarian advised us that [the House’s] ObamaCare repeal bill can proceed under the rules of reconciliation. The Parliamentarian also confirmed that the restrictions on payments to certain health care providers in section 201 of the House bill can be accomplished consistent with the Byrd rule.”
Although there may still be some snags with the ObamaCare portion, the problems aren’t insurmountable ones. In fact, Senate Republicans are already trying to work out the math so that the health care repeal qualifies under the Byrd rule. To ensure it does, the GOP has to prove that the bill reduces the deficit or somehow offsets spending — which was a little complicated by the House’s work on the debt ceiling increase.
Once Republicans work out the kinks and make the ObamaCare piece compliant, it will be a significant step toward the country’s goal: undoing a $2 trillion health care disaster and holding a callous harvester of baby parts accountable. It also removes a key obstacle for some Republicans, who’ve been hiding behind the parliamentarian in their anxiety about defunding Planned Parenthood.
Of course, not everyone was pleased by the news — including some conservatives, who think protecting taxpayers from Cecile Richards’s harvesting ring detracts from their health care goals. But here’s the thing: conservatives don’t have to choose! They can send a bill to the president’s desk that puts the burden on him to stand by two overwhelmingly unpopular agendas. That’s the beauty of the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act, which House leaders like Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) worked so hard to craft. Now, thanks to their diligence and MacDonough’s ruling, senators can get to work improving the bill at hand. Republicans had already talked about expanding the reach of the health care repeal. And while it may not take ObamaCare out by the roots, it will severely cut back its impact.
As McConnell said late yesterday, this is all a big step in the right direction. “We want to make sure the American people know we’re still on their side, and that’s the reason we intend to send ObamaCare repeal to the president’s desk.”
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