January 26, 2017
While the part of President Trump's agenda that he controls is off to a flying start, the portion of the agenda dependent upon congressional action is still trying to get off the ground. The timing of President Trump's biggest priority -- repealing Obamacare and defunding Planned Parenthood -- is now uncertain. The hold-up is over the replace portion of the repeal-and-replace effort. A handful of moderate Republicans are reportedly saying they won't vote for a repeal unless the replace is included in the same measure. That could prove problematic.
In my discussions last night and today with House Members on retreat in Philadelphia, the current House replace proposals, which they are trying to shoehorn into the reconciliation measure, may not exclude taxpayer funding of abortion. The reason? The mechanism by which the key provisions of the Affordable Care Act will be repealed -- budget reconciliation -- which only requires 51 votes in the Senate to pass, has significant limitations. The items included must be related to existing budgetary expenditures and reconciliation cannot be used to introduce policy language that is not directly related to the budget. Because some members don't want to repeal Obamacare without the replace included in the same legislative measure, they've crafted a replacement that relies in part upon refundable tax credits. While the fiscal approach may be more sound than Obamacare, it would very likely continue the taxpayer funding of abortion. It is unlikely that those refundable credits -- which are subsidies by another name -- will be restricted so that they do not fund elective abortion with taxpayer money.
As I discussed this morning on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal," Obamacare's accounting gimmicks did not prohibit taxpayer money from funding abortion, nor will the Republican's tax credits unless it is specifically excluded. Republicans should not follow in the footsteps of Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats who hastily cobbled together the original bill that they passed, then read only to find more aliments than cures for our healthcare system. The wisest and most expedient move may be to simply repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood using the same reconciliation language that passed the House and Senate, which President Obama vetoed last year.
This could be done in time for President Trump to use his February 28 speech to a joint session of Congress to lay out a well-crafted and thought out replacement plan -- like the Republican Study Committee health care bill led by Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) and the GOP "A Better Way," which replace Obamacare with health care credits while also removing abortion. The President could then enlist the support of the American people to overcome the threats of Sen. Schumer and the Democrats to kill a market-based, patient-centered healthcare plan.
President Trump in his first week has established a record that is in total alignment with his campaign commitments and promises. The Republican led Congress should keep those commitments and promises front and center as they move forward in repealing and replacing the failed policy of Obamacare.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.