Affordable Care Act and Budget Reconciliation
The House voted along party lines last Friday to approve a budget reconciliation bill, H.R. 3762, that would repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and halt federal funding for Planned Parenthood for one year. The final vote was 240-189, with one Democrat voting in favor (Congressman Collin Peterson, D-MN) and seven Republicans voting against (Congressmen Ken Buck, R-CO; Bob Dold, R-IL; Richard Hanna, R-NY; Walter Jones, R-NC; Mark Meadows, R-NC; Matt Salmon, R-AZ; and Mark Walker, R-NC). It is suspected that Congressman Peterson voted in favor due to his strong opposition to abortion, while the Republicans voting against likely felt that the bill does not go far enough to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
While the bill would not repeal the healthcare law altogether, it would eliminate certain key aspects, including the individual and employer mandates as well as the Prevention and Public Health Fund. For NWA and the WIC community, the loss of the ACA's Prevention and Public Health Fund would be an extreme detriment to carrying out WIC's public health nutrition prevention mission. In addition to targeting the ACA, H.R. 3762 also seeks to cut federal funding from Planned Parenthood for one year.
Republicans have elected to use the reconciliation process as a way to force President Obama to veto the bill, since reconciliation means the bill will make it to the president’s desk without being subject to a Democratic filibuster.
Even without the chance of a filibuster, however, the fate of H.R. 3762 remains uncertain in the Senate.
Three Senate Republicans, Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mike Lee (R-UT), have vowed to oppose the bill, accusing House Republican leaders of abandoning their promise to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act.
With three additional Republican senators voicing concerns about defunding Planned Parenthood, the legislation may not achieve the 51 votes needed to pass.
House Democrats defended the Affordable Care Act during discussions of the reconciliation bill last week and criticized Republicans for focusing their attention on repealing the ACA while they should be focusing on a viable solution to the debt crisis. “Here we go again with the 61st time repealing ObamaCare,” said Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) last Friday. “Give us a break, it’s a waste of everybody’s time.”
To learn more about the budget reconciliation process, please see the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ synopsis.
Debt Ceiling Negotiations
According to the U.S. Treasury, next Tuesday, November 3rd, is the last day for Congress to act to avoid defaulting on federal loans. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has said there will be a vote this week on a debt-limit extension, but no details about the measure have been released to the public.
Republicans have hinted that in exchange for a debt limit increase, Social Security and Medicare will need to be cut. These types of austerity measures, in which spending on public programs is cut in an effort to provide debt relief, have historically been ineffective at boosting economies, as political economist and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich points out. We hope Congress will make a smart choice, by raising the debt ceiling, ending sequestration cuts, and increasing investments in education and infrastructure programs.
New Speaker of the House
Current Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) has scheduled a Republican Conference election for Wednesday to select a nominee for Speaker. A formal House floor vote is set for Thursday. It is predicted that Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) will be the new Speaker