National WIC Association


July 31, 2017

Congressional Schedule

Members of the House have left for their August recess. The Senate will remain in Washington for the next two weeks for an extended summer session before beginning their recess.

Affordable Care Act Repeal Update

A number of important votes took place last week in the Senate on various Republican measures to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA):

  • On Tuesday, senators voted yes (51 to 50, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the deciding vote) on the motion to proceed with their health care legislation.
  • Later that same day, senators rejected the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), the legislation that a small group of Republican senators had been crafting for the past several months, by a vote of 43 to 57.
  • On Wednesday, the Senate rejected legislation to repeal major parts of the ACA without providing a replacement, by a vote of 45 to 55.
  • Finally, in the early hours of Friday morning, the Senate rejected a new, scaled-down measure to repeal parts of the ACA called the Health Care Freedom Act, by a vote of 49 to 51. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), cast the decisive vote to defeat the proposal, joining two other Republicans, Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), in opposing it.

The Health Care Freedom Act, which had the greatest hope of passing compared to the other two measures that failed earlier in the week, would have ended the individual mandate, eliminated the employer mandate, delayed a tax on medical devices, cut off federal funds for Planned Parenthood for one year, made it much easier for states to waive federal requirements that health insurance plans provide consumers with essential health benefits, and eliminated funds provided by the ACA for a wide range of prevention and public health programs.

As a result of these changes, the bill would have increased the number of people who are uninsured by 15 million next year compared with current law and increased premiums for people buying insurance on their own by roughly 20%.

The 49-to-51 vote on the Health Care Freedom Act was a major setback for Republicans, who have been attempting to repeal the ACA for the past seven years. The vote was also a major victory for Americans insured under the ACA, for Democrats and for public health and healthcare advocacy groups and individual activists who fought tirelessly against recent ACA repeal efforts.

Given that a great number of senators in both parties have vocalized their opposition to the partisan, closed-door process that Republican leaders used to craft their health care legislation, future health care negotiations will likely take place in committees, where bipartisanship and deliberation are more likely.