Republicans in the Senate could vote as early as Thursday on a budget reconciliation bill that would roll back significant sections of the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's landmark healthcare law, which is also known as Obamacare. The bill would also cut funding to the nationwide healthcare provider Planned Parenthood and is expected to force a veto from the president.
Reconciliation bills, which are supposed to tackle only policies that directly affect spending and taxes, require only 51 votes to pass, rather than the usual 60, and cannot be filibustered in the Senate. Conservatives have looked to the reconciliation process as a way to cut funding to Planned Parenthood and roll back Obamacare. Debate over the Senate version of the bill is expected to begin Wednesday at the latest, the Washington Post reported.
“We told people that we would use reconciliation because it didn’t require 60 votes, it required 51 votes, to do what we could to defund Planned Parenthood,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Tex., said. “That’s what we’re going to follow through on.”
The House of Representatives voted in October, 240 to 189, to pass a reconciliation bill that would repeal the individual and employer mandate in Obamacare, which requires qualifying people and companies to buy or provide health insurance, and kill what's known as the Cadillac tax, which is levied on employer-sponsored health plans above a certain price. It also would cut funding to Planned Parenthood. If the Senate passes its version of the bill, it would have to be reconciled with the House version before it can head to the president's desk.
Some GOP senators have threatened not to support the legislation because it does not repeal Obamacare in full -- only in part.
“Each of us campaigned on a promise to fully repeal Obamacare and a reconciliation bill is the best way to send such legislation to President Obama’s desk. If this bill cannot be amended so that it fully repeals Obamacare pursuant to Senate rules, we cannot support this bill,” Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, both presidential candidates, as well as Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, said in a statement in October. Lee has since described himself as "very encouraged" about the Senate version of the bill.
Planned Parenthood is a nationwide men's and women's health services provider, offering sexually transmitted infections testing, regular checkups, birth control and other medical services. It receives some 52 million visitors a year. Planned Parenthood frequently comes under fire for providing abortions, which constitute just 3 percent of all its services.
The White House credits the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 law that overhauled healthcare in the United States, with helping 16.4 million people get healthcare coverage.