First off, why is it important that we use reconciliation to repeal Obamacare this Congress?
Reconciliation is a powerful tool to get legislation through Congress, but it has no value as a law-making exercise with President Obama in the White House (i.e. any Republican bill will be vetoed; any bill he would sign would get Democrat support and 60 Senate votes and not need the reconciliation process). Therefore, reconciliation should be used on a unifying effort to create a contrast with President Obama and send a winning message to the American people. And nothing unifies Republicans and provides a better messaging opportunity than repealing Obamacare.
But that is not all: Using reconciliation this year is important because it should be a trial run for 2017, when we will hopefully have a President willing to sign a full repeal bill. If we are short of 60 votes in 2017, then we will need to use the reconciliation process to accomplish this. If we do it now and do it right, we can ensure full repeal is a fait accompli in 2017.
Doesn't the House bill qualify as an Obamacare repeal bill?
No. The bill does not even touch Obamacare's main two entitlement expansions: the Medicaid expansion and the exchange subsidies. The bill leaves all of Obamacare's new insurance rules and regulations in place. It also leaves many of Obamacare's taxes in place.
But isn't this all that can be done under reconciliation (under the so-called "Byrd Rule")?
No, not even close. While some continue to debate where the "red line" is on what can and can't be repealed under reconciliation, nobody is arguing that this bill contains all of the things that we know can be repealed using reconciliation. The most obvious examples are also two of the most important pillars of Obamacare: the massive Medicaid expansion and exchange subsidies. It is universally acknowledged that those important provisions qualify for reconciliation. The bill also leaves several tax increases and Medicare cuts in place, all of which are clearly reconcilable under the Byrd Rule.
I understand this is some people's view that we can do more under the Byrd Rule, but hasn't the Senate ruled out doing anything more than this?
No. The Senate has not adjudicated full repeal or many of the questions involved in passing a robust repeal bill. Those suggesting that it has are misinformed.
Regardless, the Senate should not be used as a foil to convince House conservatives not to do all they can on reconciliation. The House should pass a strong repeal bill and allow the Senate to navigate the Byrd Rule if they must.
Why is it so important that this be full repeal? Why shouldn't we just do partial repeal? Isn't this a good 'half-loaf'?
The Obamacare repeal movement has been successful in the last 5 years in keeping full repeal intact. It has recognized that it will be much easier to repeal Obamacare as a whole if all of the mandates and entitlement expansions are repealed at once, since we know that the law is vastly unpopular when taken as a whole. The threat is that "repeal" is defined-down to simply mean repealing a couple high-profile provisions, while allowing the main pillars of the law to continue untouched. This package threatens that very outcome: defining down "full repeal" and jeopardizing the entire repeal effort.
So is full repeal possible using reconciliation?
Under reconciliation law and precedent, Congress should absolutely be able to repeal all of Obamacare using reconciliation. One way of accomplishing that is described in detail here, though any approach that accomplishes that goal should be on the table.
Even if the House passes full repeal, I heard the Senate doesn't have the votes to pass it.
Not true. The Senate is on record just recently on full repeal. Remember, 51 Senate Republicans voted to pass the budget, which contemplated full repeal, including a repeal of all of the entitlement spending that is not included in the House repeal package. The Senate also took a vote on a stand-alone repeal amendment offered by Majority Leader McConnell to the transportation bill. While that vote failed with 49 votes, there were 5 GOP absentees, all or almost-all of which would surely have voted for it, as they have done time and time again in the past.
Ironically, the provision in this bill that threatens Senate passage the most is the Planned Parenthood provision, which we have recently seen a handful of GOP Senators vote against in recent weeks.
As you mentioned, this bill defunds Planned Parenthood. Shouldn't we support any bill that defunds Planned Parenthood?
All conservatives should absolutely support defunding Planned Parenthood. However, we should remember that Planned Parenthood is only included in this package as a show-vote to paper-over the fact that there was no fight to defund Planned Parenthood during the last CR debate. This bill is not going to become law. When it comes to Planned Parenthood, this particular provision has limited marginal value above the stand-alone bills the House has already passed.
I get this bill falls well short and may set back the long-term repeal effort, but how can Members actually vote against it?
Leadership should not be putting conservatives in the position of having to vote against a partial repeal bill. But there is still time: Conservatives should demand leadership pull the bill, go back to the drawing board, and get it right.