Three of Ohio’s most prominent Republicans have weighed in since the American Health Care Act failed to receive enough votes to pass in the House last week. Each of them laid forth a path that demonstrates three different strategies for Republicans moving forward.
Ohio governor and former Republican presidential candidate John Kasich suggested President Donald Trump find a group of Democrats to ally himself with to bring about health care reform. This was seen as eventually necessary anyway, due to the budget reconciliation process in the Senate.
A budget reconciliation bill allows for quick consideration of certain tax, spending, and debt limit legislation. A bill under this label must address these three things and nothing else in order to be allowed to pass with a simple majority of 51 votes. This becomes complicated when bills such as the AHCA include aspects that address issues like the rule on pre-existing conditions, which does not strictly fall into these categories. These criteria can be argued in the Senate, but ultimately it falls to the president of the Senate, Mike Pence, on how the rule should be interpreted.
The process derives itself from the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, which includes an amendment called the Byrd Rule that allows senators to raise objections to aspects of a budget reconciliation bill they see as extraneous. That means any bill that isn’t strictly budgetary can be filibustered. The Senate would then need 60 votes to overrule the objection and pass the bill.
The complexities of these legislative processes pertaining to the AHCA come about in the politics surrounding health care reform and the fact that the bill could not actually remove provisions, such as the rule for pre-existing conditions, from Obamacare without Democratic support in the Senate.
Quick refresher: Democrats were able to avoid this process because they passed Obamacare with a full 60 votes, but those 60 did not come easily. The Democrats had to concede aspects of the bill to more conservative members of the party to pass it with no Republican support.
So if Trump does want to repeal Obamacare and get it through both the House and the Senate, then Kasich is right; he will need some Democrats on board.
Next on the talk show circuit was U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan of the House Freedom Caucus. The Freedom Caucus was founded by Jordan in 2015 for conservative members of the party and has recruited a sizeable membership. The caucus was ultimately what defeated the AHCA and gave Trump his first major legislative loss. On Monday’s Morning Joe, Jordan ripped into the health care bill, saying Republicans now needed to simply do what they said they would and repeal Obamacare fully.
Jordan then went on to say the process for the bill was mishandled, as it was hidden away from members up until it was publicly presented.
Lastly, gubernatorial hopeful U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci weighed in on the aftermath with a suggestion that the Republicans change course toward tax reform. After the GOP’s devastating public loss, Renacci’s path forward won’t be any easier, as tax reform will be plagued by many of the same problems that stalled the AHCA.
The most prominent problem again will be the budget reconciliation process. Under another part of the Byrd Rule, the Republicans would not be able to raise the deficit in the long run without 60 votes. The Bush administration got around this by having their reconciliation bills expire after 10 years; those were the so-called Bush tax cuts.
If it seems complicated and hard to do massive budgetary changes without 60 votes to negate the Byrd Rule, that’s because it is. If the president had no idea “health care could be so complicated,” then he is in for a rude awakening if his next target is tax reform.