Senators Bob Corker of Tennessee, Rob Portman of Ohio, Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska offered an amendment Monday to the budget resolution that would extend the target date for the committees to write an Obamacare repeal bill to March 3 from Jan. 27.
“As President-elect Trump has stated, repeal and replace should take place simultaneously, and this amendment will give the incoming administration more time to outline its priorities,” Corker said in a statement. “By extending the deadline for budget reconciliation instructions until March, Congress and the incoming administration will each have additional time to get the policy right.”
This is big news. If these senators back away from the “repeal-and-delay” tactic, they will kill it. Indeed, they might kill the entire project of repealing Obamacare.
I spelled out the (enormous) risks of repeal-and-delay yesterday. The repeal-and-replace-simultaneously plan, by contrast, isn’t risky so much as it’s just a fantasy.
Repeal-and-delay was designed to solve a very specific problem: you can make changes to the budget with just 50 votes in the Senate (through “reconciliation”), but when it comes to non-budget-related regulations, of which Obamacare has many, you need 60 votes to stop a filibuster. Republicans have 52 votes.
The idea was to pull the law’s funding, effective at some future date, forcing Democrats to cooperate in enacting a replacement. If Republicans instead come up with a bill that both repeals Obamacare and replaces it with something more conservative, Democrats will just refuse to vote for it.
Jonathan Chait plays the tape forward:
There aren’t going to be eight Democrats willing to support a right-wing bill that throws people into catastrophic coverage plans that don’t cover basic medical care, as conservatives would like. It would be a coalition to patch up Obamacare with incremental changes. Maybe Republicans would call it “repeal” of Obamacare and “replacement” with something that’s about 90 percent similar, but that would be symbolic. A bipartisan law would advance Obamacare’s goals rather than destroy them.
Robert VerBruggen is managing editor of The American Conservative. Follow @RAVerBruggen