July 13, 2017
Senate Republicans rolled out the latest rewrite of their Better Care Reconciliation Act today with the hopes that it won’t be long until America is looking at Obamacare in the rearview mirror. Senators, staffers and policy experts like FRC’s team have been working non-stop to arrive at a compromise that can pass the scrutiny of the Senate parliamentarian, maintain the pro-life protections in the House bill, and then get 51 votes in the Senate. Late yesterday, the parliamentarian gave thumbs up to the overall bill structure, ruling it could proceed. That doesn’t mean the bill is out of the woods, since each section of it will be vetted by the parliamentarian to ensure it fits within the limited timeframe of the budgetary reconciliation process.
It was a rare bit of good news for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who knows that without the parliamentarian’s vote, he could forget about the party’s other 52. Although major pieces of the plan are still up in the air, this at least gives Republicans some momentum headed into an intense battle over the specifics.
With the hopes of an entire country riding on the effort, President Trump told Christian Broadcasting Network there were no more excuses. If Republicans can’t pass a repeal after seven years of promises, it will be “very bad,” the president said bluntly. “I don’t even want to talk about [that],” he went on. “…I will be very angry about it and a lot of people will be very upset,” he warned. “But I’m sitting waiting for that bill to come to my desk. I hope that they do it… They’ve been promising it ever since Obamacare, which is failed. It’s a failed experiment. It is totally gone. It’s out of business, and we have to get this done.”
As difficult as it’s been to juggle his senators’ agendas, McConnell knows that there’s one issue that can make or break the bill: taxpayer-funded abortion. With pressure bearing down on all sides, leaders understand that protecting the pro-life language is priority number one. From what we’ve seen of the new proposal, this bill does exactly that. Like past versions, this one guts the lion’s share of Planned Parenthood’s funding and blocks the Republicans’ tax credits from flowing to any plan with elective abortion. On top of that, McConnell’s working group actually improved the pro-life language by demanding -- for the first time -- that Health and Human Services clamp down the Obamacare segregation requirements.
Remember when the former president tried to appease Democratic pro-lifers with that phony accounting gimmick that pretended a “third-party” would be paying for abortion coverage for any employers with moral objections? (A lie, we know now, since the funding was coming from the same pot of money.) Well, that was never actually enforced under Obama. That changes now, say Republicans, who are insisting that insurers prove the payment and accounting are separate. In a move that should hearten House members like Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), the GOP is also forcing insurance companies to be transparent about which plans cover abortion and which don’t. (A problem that continues to plague consumers on the Obamacare exchange.)
Now that Senate Republicans have crafted a repeal and replace plan that does the people’s will on abortion, a lot rests with the parliamentarian, who will rule sometime next week on whether the pro-life language passes the reconciliation test. While we don’t know which way she may lean, we do know that if the pro-life protections are pulled, so will the support of most conservatives.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.