July 06, 2017
Something has to give in the health care debate -- but that something had better not be the pro-life provisions. That's the message from House Republicans to a Senate struggling to patch its plan's holes and find a one-size-fits-most-all solution. Watching from across the Capitol, Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-Wisc.) caucus has just as much riding on the GOP's new bill as anyone.
Staring down a House-Senate conference, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) knows that pleasing his chamber's Republicans is only part of the equation, since at least 70 members stand ready to kill any plan that doesn't defund Planned Parenthood and stop taxpayer dollars from flowing to insurance plans that cover elective abortion. Just last Friday, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) spelled out the stakes, warning that if the Senate takes the "pro-life components" out of their version of the health care overhaul, it will blow the bill "to smithereens" in the House. "We've warned the Senate that there's nothing they could do that would blow the health care bill to Mars more than taking the pro-life protections out of it," he said. "I think they know if they do, they might as well not vote."
On top of the 70-member letter already on the desk of the Majority Leader, another 30 congressmen reiterated their stance on June 21. Now, the chorus is only getting louder. Seeing the Senate plan in jeopardy, Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) told reporters, "Pro-life protections are a no-brainer. For about 80 to 90 guys in the House, that's an immediate non-starter."
For McConnell, it's a delicate dance. The fate of some of these provisions is out of his hands – and in the hands of the parliamentarian, who will decide if the walls between taxpayer-funded abortion are budgetary enough not to violate the reconciliation rules. Still, as plenty of conservatives have said (including FRC), there is one way to guarantee the language survives, and that's to use what has already worked: the 2015 bill. Two years ago, during the test drive for this repeal, the portion of the legislation that gutted the majority of Planned Parenthood's funding had the green light from the Senate parliamentarian -- setting Congress on an easy path to repeat the feat with a Republican president in the White House.
Now, facing a messy and complicated road to passage, some conservatives are starting to float the idea of returning to the 2015 bill, an option FRC has always supported if the Senate can't agree on an acceptable, pro-life, cost-effective replacement. As crucial as it is to get the alternative right, conservatives should be focused on the biggest priority: repealing the law they're trying to replace! Time is ticking on the window for budget reconciliation, which is the best strategy for canceling Washington's check to the country's biggest abortion business.
President Trump, who's been intent on keeping his promises, knows how important this one is to voters. "If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!" he tweeted. Senators like Nebraska's Ben Sasse (R) agree and have been trying to get others on the same page. "This two-step plan to keep our two promises," he said in one interview, "both repealing and replacing it with a system that provides affordable and portable health insurance -- seems like a no-brainer…" At least one colleague is on board. "I'd be fine with that," Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said Friday. "What we would do is have the repeal go into effect at some date in the future and give us the time in the meantime to develop the alternative."
If Senate leaders aren't careful, they'll be too obsessed with the solution to deal with the initial problem: Obamacare. America survived for more than 200 years without the Left's debacle of a system. This is urgent, but it's important for Congress to take the time to get this right -- not just for its citizens, but for its future ones.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.