US Senate passes measure to take first step in dismantling Obamacare
Early on Thursday, the Senate voted 51-48 in favor of a nonbinding Republican-backed budget measure that will make it easier to pass repeal legislation, which could be voted on as early as next month.
Republicans plan to get rid of the law and replace parts of it by the end of February, according to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, speaking on “The Hugh Hewitt Show”, a conservative radio program, on Wednesday. Other Republicans, however, say the process could take longer.
The senators who voted against the new measure on Thursday were quick to voice their discontent with the outcome on Twitter. Calling the vote “shocking,” “immoral,” and “shameful,” they warned of the possible consequences of repealing Obamacare with no replacement, stating that millions of Americans could lose their insurance.
The House is scheduled to vote on the measure on Friday. If passed, it would allow follow-up legislation to avoid a filibuster by Senate Democrats, a congressional procedure in which debate over a proposed piece of legislation is extended to delay or entirely prevent a vote on it. US President-elect Donald Trump said Wednesday that repealing and replacing the law should happen “essentially simultaneously.” However, neither he, nor the Republicans have yet presented a replacement program for Obamacare.
The 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, extended health insurance to around 20 million Americans, prevented insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, and provided states with billions of dollars for Medicaid health programs for the poor. Republicans pledged to scrap large parts of the law, however, citing rising health insurance premiums among other things. It was a promise that may have helped Donald Trump win the election, as voters were upset when it was announced that Obamacare premiums were set to jump by 25 percent in 2017.
It will not be an easy job to remove Obamacare, however, as some portions of the law which got rid of pre-existing conditions and allowed children to remain covered by their parents’ insurance until age 26, are still very popular among Americans. Trump promised to keep those provisions unchanged.
Thursday’s Senate vote sets up special rules for the repeal vote – the GOP will be able to pass it through a process known as reconciliation, which would require a simple majority in the 100-member Senate, instead of the 60 votes required to move most legislation. That means Republicans, who have 52 seats, can pass repeal legislation without any cooperation from Democrats.