Senate Republicans yesterday ushered through a budget resolution that instructs House and Senate committees to draft legislation to repeal major portions of the Affordable Care Act by Jan. 27.
Senate Democrats staged a late-night protest of the move, forcing a “vote-a-rama” on sensitive issues such as protecting mental health services and womens’ access to health care. At the end of the process, however, the resolution passed 51-48 with no Democratic support. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) also voted no due to his concerns that GOP leaders have not committed to a concrete replacement plan for the ACA.
The House is expected to take up the measure on Friday, although there are signals that some House Republicans are leery of repealing Obamacare without a replacement plan.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said GOP leaders will provide “a stable transition period” so that the 20 million people who have gained coverage under the ACA don’t suddenly find themselves uninsured. But he also emphasized that Congress needs to move to repeal now to fulfill a promise to the American people.
“We need to act before things get worse,” Ryan said. “Remember – this is a rescue mission. We are in the middle of a rescue mission to save the families who are getting caught up in the death spiral that has become Obamacare. And we need to do this right.”
The budget resolution passed by the Senate is a procedural step that will allow the GOP to push through a repeal bill without the threat of a Democratic filibuster.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) said Republicans are being “irresponsible” by rushing through a repeal bill without any well-conceived, thoughtful replacement.
“Put this irresponsible and rushed repeal plan aside,” Schumer said on the Senate floor this week. “Work with us Democrats on a way to improve health care in America, not put chaos in place of affordable care.”
In his press conference on Wednesday, President-elect Donald Trump said repeal won’t happen without a replacement plan and that his nominee for Health and Human Services, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), will play a critical role in that replacement strategy.
“Obamacare is the Democrats’ problem,” Trump said. “We’re going to take the problem off the shelves for them. We’re doing them a tremendous favor.”