Senate Parliamentarian Mucks Up Senate Republicans’ Health Plan—Again

The GOP can’t allow states to opt out of consumer protections, the parliamentarian ruled.

Bill Clark/ZUMA

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

As Republicans continue to barrel toward a final vote Thursday or Friday on their plan to overturn Obamacare, the official Senate rules-keeper weighed in yet again Thursday to tell Republicans that parts of their plan violate the body’s rules. The Senate parliamentarian said that a policy to allow states to opt out of consumer protections such as essential health benefits could not be included in the final bill. 

This ruling, along with others by the parliamentarian, suggests that the GOP won’t be able to use budget reconciliation—which allows the Senate to bypass its usual 60-vote threshold and move legislation with a simple majority—to defang Obamacare’s consumer protections for people with preexisting conditions, a main goal of conservatives in the Senate. It was only by stripping out these protections that the House was able to get a group of very conservative members on board and pass its version of the health bill.

“The parliamentarian’s latest decision reveals once again that Republicans have abused the reconciliation process in an attempt to radically change one-sixth of the American economy by repealing the Affordable Care Act,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the ranking member on the Budget Committee, said in a statement announcing the parliamentarian’s ruling.

Since they hold just 52 seats in the Senate, Republicans are trying to pass an Obamacare repeal using reconciliation. But reconciliation comes with restrictions, including that each part of the bill has to be relevant to the budget and that the overall package does not increase the deficit.

Republicans have run into trouble with that first part. The Senate parliamentarian has tossed out a number of provisions as irrelevant to the budget. In addition to the latest ruling on state innovation waivers, the parliamentarian has rejected a provision that would have increased the amount insurers can charge older consumers (which the AARP has branded an “age tax”), another provision that would defund Planned Parenthood for one year, and many others

Senate Republicans have already voted down the full repeal-and-replace plan introduce by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Now McConnell has turned to a fallback option known as a “skinny repeal.” (“Skinny” is a bit of a misnomer, since the measure would likely still cause more than 15 million fewer people to have insurance). It’s unclear if that skinny bill is the final product that Republicans hope will one day be signed by President Donald Trump, or if it’s just a tool to start discussions with the House to carve out a final compromise. But whatever final bill the Senate clears will need to get the parliamentarian’s approval if Republicans want to pass it without Democratic support.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate