Federal Issues

Heritage Action Sentinel Items – 2/21/2017

Congress is in recess this week, meaning it’s a perfect time to go to any town halls your members may be holding to push for Obamacare repeal and to counter the left who is showing up in huge numbers. Click here to find a town hall taking place near you and please let me know if you hear about events your member is planning to attend.

The Obamacare repeal timeline is slipping. Despite passing the budget resolution earlier this month, Congress has still not written the budget reconciliation bill repealing Obamacare. We’ve passed step three in the graphic below, but have been hung up for 4 weeks waiting for the committees with jurisdiction to begin step four. There is no good reason for this delay–the entire process could and should have already been finished.

Congress is in recess this week, meaning it’s a perfect time to go to any town halls your members may be holding to push for Obamacare repeal and to counter the left who is showing up in huge numbers. Click here to find a town hall taking place near you and please let me know if you hear about events your member is planning to attend.

Steps to Repealing Obamacare

The committee process is still not underway and news reports are reporting that the markup in the House Energy & Commerce Committee won’t commence until March 1st with the other 3 other committee stops following sequentially thereafter. This delay puts the timeline dangerously close to when the federal government runs out of funding on April 28th and when insurance companies must submit proposed premiums for 2018 Obamacare plans on May 3rd.

Sentinels should continue to push for full repeal as soon as possible by actively participating in town halls, writing letters to the editor, and contacting their members of Congress.



Key action items for this week:

  • Tell your Representative and Senators not to allow the timeline for Obamacare repeal to continue to slip. Remind them that there are no more excuses to avoid repealing the law and that replacement can be debated and done separately, after repeal has taken place.

More Detail:

The House and Senate are both in session this week. The Senate will continue the process of confirming President Trump’s cabinet nominees including Steven Mnuchin for Treasury secretary, David Shulkin for secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA), and Linda McMahon to serve as the administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA). Additional confirmation votes are likely. The House and Senate will continue to use the Congressional Review Act to repeal a number of former President Obama’s executive rules, including one that prevents States from cutting off federal funding to women’s health clinics, like Planned Parenthood, who indirectly use taxpayer dollars to perform abortions.

The Obamacare Repeal Process Begins: Earlier this month, the Senate passed the FY 2017 “shell” budget resolution (S. CON. RES. 3) by a vote of 51 to 48 after a “vote-a-rama” on a marathon of controversial amendments intended to undermine the repeal effort. Heritage Action key voted the budget resolution since “it’s the only way to expedite the repeal of Obamacare.” On Friday, the House also passed the budget resolution, by a vote of 227 to 198, which now begins the process of budget reconciliation by setting up instructions for the House Ways and Means Committee, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, and the Senate Health & Education & Labor & Pensions Committee to write a budget reconciliation bill that fully repeals Obamacare. Once the bills pass out of their respective committees, they go to the Budget Committee. The Budget Committee then passes one unified repeal bill which the House and the Senate can then pass with a simple majority and then-President Trump can sign into law.

Click here to read Heritage Action’s key vote “YES” on Obamacare Repeal Budget Resolution (S. CON. RES. 3).

Obamacare “Two Budget” Repeal Strategy: Since 2010, Republicans promised to fully repeal Obamacare, campaigned on full repeal, and voted over 60 times to repeal parts or all of the disastrous healthcare law. Last year, Congress used a filibuster-proof process known as budget reconciliation to pass an Obamacare repeal bill that was ultimately vetoed by the President. But now that voters elected to keep Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress and gave Republicans the White House, Congress is using the same budget reconciliation process to successfully repeal Obamacare once and for all in a Trump administration. Chairman of the Republican Study Committee (RSC) Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) stated: “If there’s one promise that Republicans have run on for the last six years, it is that we are going to do our best to repeal Obamacare. I think that (vote) affirms our promise today.”  Last week’s vote is a victory for conservatives; however, it is only the first step toward fulfilling this six-year old promise.

Congress must now write and pass a budget reconciliation bill that repeals Obamacare. Ideally, Congress should pass a one-sentence reconciliation bill that fully repeals Obamacare and sends it to President Trump’s desk soon after inauguration. The next best option would be for Congress to take the reconciliation bill that repealed Obamacare (with a two-year transition period), but was vetoed earlier last year (H.R. 3762), and pass it again with additional language repealing the Obamacare insurance mandates – a central reason health insurance premiums continue to rise. The third and minimal option would be for Congress to simply re-pass H.R. 3762, which does not include the repeal of insurance mandates and other important provisions.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report today stating that if Congress only passes H.R. 3762, millions of Americans will lose health coverage and Obamacare premiums will increase. First, this report does not take into account future health care reforms Republicans will replace Obamacare with nor does it account for the executive actions the Trump administration will take to address various issues. Second, CBO estimates on Obamacare have been dramatically wrong in the past. For example, the CBO claimed that 21 million individuals would sign up for Obamacare by 2016, but in reality only 10.4 million did, not to mention the millions of individuals who lost coverage because of Obamacare. Why should we believe CBO estimates are accurate now? Ironically, this report should encourage Congress to repeal more of Obamacare because as the report admits, partial repeal absent the insurance mandates will result in more individuals losing health insurance coverage.

Click here to read five guiding policies Republicans should pass to reform America’s healthcare system. Click here to read a Daily Signal op-ed on President Trump’s Obamacare executive order.

Some Republicans are posturing that they may oppose Obamacare repeal unless it is replaced first or at the same time. But holding Obamacare repeal hostage for replace guarantees its defeat since Democrats will never vote to repeal Obamacare and Republicans may disagree on an enormous thousand-plus-page replacement bill. This is exactly what President Obama and Senate Democrats want Republicans to do in order to ensure Obamacare repeal never happens.

The better way forward is for Congress to fully repeal Obamacare and then debate and pass a series of conservative, free-market healthcare reforms that enact consumer choice, strengthen the doctor-patient relationship and lower costs. After Obamacare is fully repealed, Congress can then pass a second budget for fiscal year 2018 that lowers spending levels and achieves other conservative priorities. This two budget strategy will ensure that momentum for repeal does not stall. It also provides ample time for individuals who have insurance through the Obamacare exchanges to transition back to the individual market without losing coverage.

Click here to read Vice President of Research at the Heritage Foundation James Wallner’s op-ed entitled “Holding Obamacare Repeal Hostage for Replace Guarantees Its Defeat.” Click here to read a Daily Signal op-ed on the CBO Report.

Click here to read President of the Heritage Foundation Senator Jim DeMint’s op-ed entitled “Obamacare Repeal Must Be on Day One: Congress Has No Excuses.”

Dodd-Frank Repeal: In 2016, Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) successfully passed his Dodd-Frank replacement bill out of the House Financial Services Committee. Named the Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers, and Entrepreneurs Act (H.R. 5983), Financial CHOICE Act for short, the passage of this bill out of committee was a significant first step toward full repeal of the misnamed Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Dodd-Frank codifies “too big to fail” policy, harms local community banks, restricts access to credit for investors and homebuyers, raises lending costs, reduces access to capital for small businesses, and created one of the most powerful and unaccountable federal agencies — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Evidence shows Dodd-Frank is one of the major factors responsible for the country’s historically slow economic recovery.

But now with the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency and Republicans maintaining control of the House and the Senate, Congress has a perfect opportunity to improve and pass Financial CHOICE Act 2.0 into federal law. Chairman Hensarling is expected to move quickly on CHOICE 2.0 in the next couple of weeks. Click here to read Heritage Action’s legislative endorsement of the Financial CHOICE Act.

No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion: Last Tuesday, the House passed the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017 (H.R. 7) introduced by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ). Heritage Action key voted “YES” on H.R. 7 as it would establish a permanent, government-wide prohibition on federal taxpayer funding of abortion and health benefits plans that include coverage of abortions through Obamacare. Click here to read Heritage Action’s key vote “YES” on No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017 (H.R. 7).

Two-Speech Rule: In November 2013, Senate Democrats used the so-called “nuclear option” to eliminate the ability of Senators to filibuster all federal administrative appointments and judicial nominees with the exception of Supreme Court nominees. Now that Republicans maintained their Senate majority and won the White House, some are calling for Senate Republicans to use the nuclear option to confirm President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court and pass many upcoming conservative legislative priorities. However, other procedural means exist to move conservative priorities through the Senate without using the nuclear option.

Senate Republicans should move forward by enforcing the so-called “two-speech rule” as a strategy to move their conservative agenda. Under Senate rules, each Senator is limited to a maximum of two floor speeches in the same legislative day. A legislative day begins when the Senate meets after an adjournment and ends when the Senate adjourns next, which could last as short as one day or as long as multiple months.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) could use the “two-speech rule” to evade a Senate Democratic filibuster and confirm a conservative justice or pass legislation with a simple majority. This strategy would allow Senate Republicans to push through their agenda without changing any of the Senate’s existing rules. It would also clearly demonstrate to the American people that the Senate minority is being obstructionist and playing politics instead of doing its job.

Click here to read more about the two-speech strategy on the Daily Signal.

Check out the Heritage Action Scorecard to see exactly how your Georgia member of Congress ranks on the votes that matter most

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