According to The Hill, Republicans on and off Capitol Hill are rallying behind using a rare budget tool next year to dismantle ObamaCare.
The issue is called “budget reconciliation,” and it has divided Republicans, with some asking for it to be implemented to overhaul the tax code or to push through major energy reforms.
“Budget reconciliation” is useful and it could allow newly empowered Senate Republicans to pass legislation with a 51-vote simple majority rather than the usual 60, greatly increasing the chances of moving legislation to President Obama’s desk.
While Obama is certain to veto anything that tries to roll back his landmark healthcare law, Republicans see reconciliation as an important way to “send a message” about The Affordable Care Act or other laws.
There supposedly already appears to be strong bipartisan support to undo smaller pieces of ObamaCare — things like restoring the 40-hour workweek and repealing the medical device tax — so those provisions wouldn’t require the filibuster-proof budget tool.
Democrats will certainly have more leverage if they retain the ability to use the Senate’s filibuster, but Republicans think they can work across the aisle to enact legislation on taxes and energy.
If Republicans are serious about enacting tax reform next year, they should aim for 60 Senate votes, said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office who leads the conservative think tank American Action Forum.
Republicans will hold 54 seats come January, so they would need at least six Democratic votes.
“That’s better for tax reform because it means it’s more durable,” Holtz-Eakin said. “When you’ve done the work of getting the minority to sign on, it makes it much more likely the White House signs it.”
However, if reconciliation is used on tax reform or energy, Democrats may refuse to cooperate.
But a senior Senate Republican aide called it “unrealistic” to turn to budget reconciliation to pass tax or energy reform.
A spokesman for House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said discussions about reconciliation are ongoing and nothing’s been decided yet.
However, Ryan, who will lead the powerful tax-writing Ways and Means Committee next month, has signaled he’s open to using “budget reconciliation” to enact tax reform.
Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), who will replace Ryan as Budget chairman, threw out a number of possibilities for which Republicans could use the reconciliation process, including reforms to the tax code, entitlements like Medicare, or energy programs.
Republicans are aware that they’ll have to navigate a series of hurdles before they can deploy reconciliation.
The House and Senate would have to agree on a budget resolution, no easy feat given that the Budget chairmen, Price and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), will both be new to the job.
“It’s not a foregone conclusion that all Republicans will walk in lockstep together on what comes out of the Budget committees.”
Congress is also extremely limited in how it can use the procedural maneuver — typically it’s reserved for just one issue per budget.
Even then, Senate rules say the reconciliation measure must not hike the federal deficit beyond a 10-year period and do not change spending and revenue.
Republicans will engage in back-and-forth negotiations with the Senate parliamentarian and chief referee, Elizabeth MacDonough, who must decide whether their legislation passes the test, a process known as the “Byrd Bath,” named for the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.).
“It is a tough hurdle to overcome,” said Hoagland, who had been through a few baths of his own during his Senate tenure.