Republicans continue to plot whether they want to tie Obamacare repeal to tax reform or wait until next year to pass an Obamacare repeal package.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) derailed Obamacare repeal last week when he announced that he would oppose the Graham-Cassidy Obamacare repeal bill. Since then, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Susan Collins (R-ME) came out against the bill in its current form.
Graham-Cassidy would repeal Obamacare’s individual and employer mandate and deliver health care to the states so that Republican states can craft a more conservative and affordable alternative to the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans continue to struggle with how to balance the competing interests of Sens. McCain, Collins, and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who want bipartisan legislation to fix Obamacare, and Sens. Paul, Cruz, and Mike Lee (R-UT), who want more flexibility for states to repeal Obamacare insurance regulations and deeper cuts on Obamacare spending and taxes.
Republicans continue to flirt with the idea of tying Obamacare repeal to tax reform, and Republicans hope to use budgetary reconciliation for the fiscal year 2018 budget to pass a tax reform package.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) argued that Republicans need to tackle Obamacare repeal and tax reform next year. Hatch contended, “We’ve got to do both,” elaborating, “They’re complicated by necessity. So I don’t think that takes away the complications. But I think we’re supposed to be able to handle complications.”
“If it’s used to screw everything up, I’m not for that,” Hatch added.
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Ron Jonson (R-WI), both sponsors of Graham-Cassidy, argue that they can use their position on the Senate Budget Committee to force Congress to include budget reconciliation instructions for both tax reform and Obamacare repeal.
Johnson said, “If we’re not able to pass this this week, both Lindsey Graham and I have said — we’re both on the Budget Committee — we’ll insist on a budget resolution that’ll give us the tools of reconciliation for health care and for tax reform.”
Paul, a proponent of a clean repeal of Obamacare, said on Monday that “there’s no reason you couldn’t do health care and taxes at the same time.”
Senate Republicans would remain unlikely to garner enough votes to pass a legislative package that includes tax reform as well as Obamacare repeal. Sens. McCain, Collins, and Murkowski have voted against Obamacare repeal in the past, and attaching an Obamacare repeal bill to tax reform might also imperil tax reform.
Sen. John Thune (R-SD) suggested that Republicans pass a tax reform package using the 2018 budget and then repeal Obamacare using the 2018 fiscal year budget next year. This strategy would put Obamacare repeal back in the center of the mid-term elections.
South Dakota Sen. John Thune argued, “The issue’s not going away. We’ll be revisiting this issue at some point.” The third-ranking Senate Republican, added, “If we can’t do it in a reconciliation vehicle this year, then maybe it’s the 2019 [budget]. I don’t know. We’ll see.”
Sen. Cruz argued that Republicans must continue to work to repeal Obamacare. He said, “We cannot give up on Obamacare repeal. We must keep working. We can get to yes”:
We cannot give up on Obamacare repeal. We must keep working. We can get to yes.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) September 25, 2017