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Senate ref flags key parts of GOP health bill plan

Defunding Planned Parenthood, barring the use of tax credits for abortion coverage and eight other provisions of the Senate health care bill are not eligible for the fast-track process Republicans are using to pass a health care bill and will require 60 votes, according to Budget Committee Democrats.

The findings by the Senate parliamentarian — the body’s main referee — throw yet another hurdle in front of the Republican push to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Conservatives and advocates have insisted on pro-life language in whatever plan emerges from Congress, yet Democrats will not help them gather the votes as they defend their signature 2010 health overhaul.

Republicans are using special process, known as “budget reconciliation,” to bypass a filibuster of its health plans, since the Republican majority consists of 52 seats and cannot overcome the 60-vote threshold to proceed over Democratic opposition.

Yet the Senate’s referee — the parliamentarian — can scratch policy changes that aren’t related to the budget during a vetting process known in Capitol-speak as the “Byrd bath.”

The process claimed major victims, according to Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent and ranking member on the budget panel that oversees the legislation.

That includes the GOP’s long-standing goal of stripping federal Medicaid funds from Planned Parenthood for one year as punishment for its abortion practice, and a provision that would lock consumers out of coverage for six months if they experience a significant lapse in coverage and want to get covered again. Republicans included the provision to replace Obamacare’s individual mandate, which serves as the main prod to get healthy people into the marketplace.

Mr. Sanders characterized the findings as a rebuke of the Republicans’ strategy to go it alone in rescuing Obamacare’s ailing markets.

The House passed a health care bill in May, yet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rewrote the bill largely in secret, prompting Democrats and some GOP moderates to call for a do-over with public hearings and bipartisan negotiations.

“The parliamentarian’s decision today proves once again that the process Republicans have undertaken to repeal the Affordable Care Act and throw 22 million Americans off of health insurance is a disaster,” Mr. Sanders said.

The White House implored senators to vote to proceed onto the health care bill this week to kickstart debate and pass either a replacement plan or a bill that replaces Obamacare now and delays its impact for two years, buying time for a new plan.

With Sen. John McCain of Arizona dealing with his sudden cancer diagnosis, GOP leaders cannot afford more than one defection and still proceed onto the bill or pass a plan.

Also Friday, the parliamentarian raised the vote threshold for the “Buffalo bailout,” a part of the House bill that limited New York State’s ability to force counties to contribute to the Medicaid program. Republican leaders used the measure to gain votes from moderate House Republicans in upstate New York.

The parliamentarian said others aspects of GOP plan, including work requirements for Medicaid recipients and the repeal of “cost-sharing” reimbursements in 2020, could pass on a majority line vote.

However, a part of the plan that replicates current law by funding the cost-sharing reimbursements through 2019 did not pass muster, so Republicans would have to find a work-around to avoid instability in the marketplace, since insurers would raise their rates to make up money they lose on low-income customers’ costs.

President Trump has threatened to withhold the payments anyway, however.

Raising the bar for pro-life language will be a major sticking point and could imperil passage, particularly when the House revisits the plan, if Republicans can’t legislate around it.

Some conservatives say leaders should allow Mr. Pence, as president of the Senate, to override the parliamentarian while presiding over the chamber, though many Republicans are skeptical of taking such a bold move.

Other provisions in the GOP plan, such as one that would allow states to waive certain Obamacare regulations on insurers, remain under review.

The parliamentarian did not vet a plan by Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, that would let insurers offer plans that do not comply with Obamacare’s coverage requirements so long as they sold ones that do as well, presuming because the Congressional Budget Office has not scored the plan yet.


Source: www.washingtontimes.com stories: Politics

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