Late-night vote sets Obamacare up for filibuster-free repeal

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Saturday, January 14, 2017

At 1:30 a.m. on Thursday morning the United States Senate voted to include the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, as part of a budget blueprint. This procedural measure allows most of Obamacare to be repealed by a simple majority rather than the usual requirement of 60 out of the senate's 100 votes and effectively prevents the use of filibuster.

The Capitol Building, home to the Senate.
Image: Scrumshus.

"We're working with legislative leaders at this very moment to begin to craft legislation that will repeal the most corrosive elements of Obamacare — the individual mandate, the taxes, the penalties — but at the same time, moving separate legislation that will allow us to introduce the kind of reforms in American health care that'll lower the cost of health insurance without growing the size of government," said Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington had a different view, going so far as to call this "stealing health care from Americans."

The filibuster is a last-ditch tactic in which parties opposed to a certain motion refuse to relinquish the floor until their opponents give in or compromise.

Although the 51-48 vote was mostly along party lines, some Republicans have expressed uncertainty about repealing Obamacare before a replacement system is worked out. Although president-elect Donald Trump has called for a "repeal and replace" plan, saying that a new health care system would be enacted "almost simultaneously," many in government and the press have expressed doubts about whether this would actually happen.

Donald Trump (left) and Mike Pence together, from file.
Image: Gage Skidmore.

Senator Susan Collins of Maine said she would like to at least see a well-constructed plan before voting and Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia said repealing Obamacare without replacing it was "unacceptable." These concerns were shared by members of the House of Representatives. "We need to be voting for a replacement plan at the same time that we vote for repeal," added Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina. Representative Tom MacArthur of New Jersey agreed, saying, "We're loading a gun here. I want to know where it's pointed before we start the process."

Anna Merlan of Jezebel and Anthony Taylor of the Associated Press dismiss Trump's timeline as "impossible" given the complicated nature of U.S. congressional workings. Senator Collins agreed, saying "I don't see any possibility of our being able to come up with a comprehensive reform bill that would replace Obamacare by the end of this month. I just don't see that as being feasible."

The Affordable Care Act, which is often cited as a key accomplishment of the Obama administration, has had a mixed reputation, and many conservatives believe a market-based health care system would be more flexible and efficient and less costly, and many believe that the Affordable Care Act only passed because of Obama's later discredited pledge that no one who liked their current health plan would have to switch. Matt O'Brien of The Washington Post claims a large tax cut that would result for the wealthiest 1% of citizens if Obamacare funds were not converted to other purposes, estimated at about $32,820 annually per person by the Tax Policy Center, is also a significant motive.

Republican Senators set a date of January 27 to repeal Obamacare, according to NBC News. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California says legislation repealing Obamacare and replacing it could ready by late February. According to Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders, as many as 30 million people could lose their health insurance if the ACA is repealed.

Related news

"US House of Representatives passes universal health care bill" — Wikinews, November 8, 2009


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