Parliamentarian Determines Healthcare Bill Violates Some Senate Rules

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Reuters

The Senate parliamentarian ruled on Friday that some parts of the Senate healthcare bill do not comply with reconciliation rules, meaning that passing the healthcare bill with those provisions will require a 60 vote majority in the upper chamber.

The Senate parliamentarian ruled that the following provisions do not comply with budgetary reconciliation:

  • The measure withdrawing funding for Planned Parenthood for one year.
  • The bill’s provision preventing Americans from using health care tax credits on plans that cover abortion.
  • Obamacare subsidies for health insurers, otherwise known as the cost-sharing reduction program.
  • A six-month waiting period for individuals who failed to maintain health insurance coverage.

The parliamentarian still has to review some of the Senate bill’s language, such as:

  • State waivers for Obamacare insurance regulations such as essential health benefits.
  • A measure allowing small businesses to establish association health plans.
  • A rule change allowing insurers to charge older Americans more than younger citizens compared to the rules stipulated under Obamacare.
  • The rule allowing states to receive Medicaid as a block grant instead of a per capita cap.

The parliamentarian’s ruling serves as a setback in the Senate’s battle to pass a healthcare bill through the upper chamber. However, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) may have a strategy to overrule the parliamentarian.

Sen. Cruz previously argued that Vice President Mike Pence should overrule the Senate parliamentarian’s decision to bar several provisions in the Senate healthcare bill, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA).

“Under the Budget Act of 1974, which is what governs reconciliation, it is the presiding officer, the vice president of the United States, who rules on what’s permissible on reconciliation and what is not,” Cruz explained. “That’s a conversation I’ve been having with a number of my colleagues.”

Democrats would find it nearly impossible to overrule Vice President Pence’s ruling; Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer would need 60 votes to overrule Pence.

The Texas senator claimed that Pence, as the presiding officer of the Senate, can choose to interpret the rules and ignore the parliamentarian’s counsel.

Sen. Cruz said, “You don’t have to override the parliamentarian or get a new parliamentarian. Under the statute, it is the vice president who rules. It is the presiding officer who makes the decision. The parliamentarian advises on that question.”

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