Senate passes budget, moves one step closer to ACA repeal

The Senate voted 51-48 early Thursday morning to pass a budget resolution, paving the way for Republicans to dismantle the ACA, Politico reported.

The measure passed after a seven-hour long "vote-a-rama" on related issues and amendments, according to the report. Democrats introduced a number of amendments designed to trip up the budget, including proposals to curb the growing costs of prescription drugs, to safeguard people with pre-existing conditions and to protect women's healthcare services provided under the ACA. The amendments did not pass, according to the report.

The House is expected to vote on the budget Friday. The House is not in session next week, so if the vote is delayed, the budget will not be taken up until the week after President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration.

The budget lays out a process to repeal major parts of the ACA through the process of reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority vote to pass. Republicans tried to pass a similar reconciliation bill last January, H.R. 3762, but it was repealed by President Barack Obama. The reconciliation process, however, is limited. Instead of a sweeping repeal, reconciliation can only address budget-related aspects of the law, like the ACA's revenue-generating taxes, entitlement programs and premium subsidies. These include the medical device tax, the health insurance tax, the Cadillac tax and Medicare and Medicaid.

If the House passes the budget, a tentative deadline of Jan. 27 is set for two committees in the House and two in the Senate to produce reconciliation legislation. At the beginning of the week, five senators opposed the short timeline and proposed an amendment to delay the deadline until March 3 to allow for more time to draft replacement legislation.

The amendment was withdrawn Wednesday evening by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who changed his mind when he was told the Jan. 27 deadline was flexible, according to Politico. "We plan to withdraw this amendment," Sen. Corker said, according to Politico. "And place our faith in the fact that we're going to do this in a manner that works well for the American people."

Read more about the "vote-a-rama" here.


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