Amid the drama of this week’s confirmation hearings, a growing fight among GOP ranks is already coming to a head as Members face off over just how to repeal the President’s signature healthcare law and how much to prioritize spending and debt.
On Monday, five Republican Senators submitted an amendment to the bill that had passed last week and would use budget reconciliation to repeal the ACA, amid growing concerns over a lack of a viable replacement plan. The amendment, from Bob Corker (R-TN), Rob Portman (R-OH) Susan Collins (R-ME), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), would extend the deadline for reconciliation instructions — that is, replacement details — from January 27 to March 3.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has previously insisted that no repeal be passed without a replacement plan, and President-elect Trump seems to agree.
There remains no clear answer on whether Republicans will look to find a replacement plan first, or vote to repeal and then push forward on replacement.
Meanwhile, the main vehicle for repeal continues to be budget reconciliation. Last week, Senator Paul submitted an alternate budget resolution, which would balance in 5 years — it failed 14-83 — as he continued to needle fellow Republicans for submitting a plan that would add $8 trillion to the deficit over the next decade. While budget resolutions are non-binding, FreedomWorks’ Jason Pye accurately points out that such a message is an unsettling signal to fiscal conservatives heading into the new administration. The fact that an alternate plan garnered so few votes in support continues the unease.
Ultimately, rolling back such a massive system as Obamacare is going to be tedious and difficult, and it is encouraging to see a plan for moving forward via reconciliation, but fiscal conservatives should also insist upon workable plans for righting the ship that is America’s terribly broken healthcare system, as soon as possible.
We realize how difficult this process is, and that a majority does not necessarily equal uniformity or an easy path forward on such significant changes, but at the very least, actions taken should be fiscally conservative.
This isn’t a hard concept. For a party that sounded the alarm endlessly and accurately for eight years about President Obama’s profligate spending, there is little excuse for a poorly thought-out plan for how their most prominent policy goals will affect spending and debt. Yes, we realize budget resolutions are non-binding, but a shrug at $8 trillion is not acceptable.
What’s more, fiscal conservatives both in and outside of Congress should buckle up and prepare for a long and tough fight. As the healthcare bureaucracy continues to struggle and the country’s most vulnerable people continue to suffer under lagging care, anyone who votes to reform the system can expect to have political opponents or even mainstream media point the finger straight at them.
Blinking in the face of what is sure to be unprecedented political pressure, and opting to entrench the system’s failures instead, would be the worst possible mistake. We should be prepared to fight not only political battles but the battle of ideas, as we insist our Representatives continue to fight for real solutions, not more of the same.