by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Joseph Lawler reports for the Washington Examiner on behind-the-scenes congressional discussions involving the future of the Affordable Care Act, especially if the U.S. Supreme Court chucks much of the law’s provisions regarding subsidies.
Republicans have been publicly divided over the use of the reconciliation procedure, which is limited in its scope by law and parliamentary procedure.
Many GOP lawmakers have pushed for the tool to be used to put legislation repealing Obamacare on the president’s desk — among other priorities to fulfill campaign promises to repeal and replace the health care law.
But Bill Flores, a Texas congressman who heads a caucus of House conservatives who have sought to pressure budget negotiators to focus on repealing Obamacare, said that he would go along with using reconciliation to pass a King v. Burwell contingency plan.
“If we make the decision as a conference that we need to build the bridge, then we ought to use reconciliation to do that,” Flores said. Republicans have been using the term “bridge” to describe various proposals that would maintain subsidies for a limited period of time, with the hope that by 2017, a Republican president would be in office who could sign a more comprehensive replacement to Obamacare.
Flores said that he favored using reconciliation to pass a repeal of Obamacare, something that he and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah pushed for Friday.
He would “hate to do a bait and switch on the American voter,” he said, mentioning Republicans’ campaign promises on repealing Obamacare.
Nevertheless, he acknowledged the logic of using reconciliation to pass a King v. Burwell contingency plan, noting a conversation he’d had with Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin regarding the Budget Office’s baseline. Ryan is the former chairman of the Budget Committee, which is responsible for the reconciliation process, and the current chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over health care.
A spokesman for Ryan said that using reconciliation for King v. Burwell is “one option on the table,” but declined to say whether it would be prioritized specifically to take advantage of higher baseline spending on health care subsidies.