After countless efforts stymied by the U.S. Senate and its 60-vote threshold to pass legislation, the House of Representatives took a new route last week and passed a comprehensive package that targets Obamacare, striking many of its onerous taxes and laying the groundwork for a new President to complete a full repeal and replacement plan. The package also reduces the deficit by 130 billion dollars in the coming years and redirects federal mandatory funding for Planned Parenthood while the investigations into that organization and its practices continue. The package proceeded through “reconciliation” – the ability of the House and Senate to pass legislation with a simple majority vote. It is time that the Republican Majority use all the procedural tools at our disposal to challenge the President.
Reconciliation works like this: In the budget resolution passed by both chambers of Congress earlier this year, three House committees were given instructions for advancing reconciliation legislation. Specifically, each committee — the Energy and Commerce Committee of which I am a member, the Ways and Means Committee and the Committee on Education and the Workforce — must produce at least $1 billion in savings each. Each committee greatly exceeded those parameters.
The Energy and Commerce Committee provisions finally end the Obamacare slush fund, known as the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services billions of dollars to spend each year with little accountability. Funds from this program have financed questionable programs and outright waste and some Democrats have joined in calling for its termination. The Energy and Commerce section also directs Planned Parenthood funding to other health care providers investing in high quality access health care options for women and men.
The Ways and Means Committee’s contribution repealed a series of significant pieces of Obamacare, including the repeal of the individual and employer mandates, the repeal of the medical device tax and the repeal of the so-called “Cadillac Tax” that forces people to accept difference insurance coverage from the coverage they knew and liked. Forcing Americans, under penalty of higher taxes, to purchase coverage of the government’s choosing is the exact opposite approach we need to create a patient–centered health care system. The employer mandate hurts small businesses and costs jobs. The medical device tax increases the cost of care, discourages medical innovation and harms job creation, especially for New Jersey’s vibrant life science sector. We should be promoting the discovery of new medical technology, not taxing it away.
And the Education and Workforce Committee advanced provisions that strip Obamacare’s auto-enrollment mandate that forces many employers to enroll new full-time employees into employer-sponsored health care coverage they may not want or need. This duplicative and wasteful mandate will create unnecessary confusion for workers and employers and results in penalties for those already enrolled in health insurance coverage and lowers employees’ take-home pay.
Reconciliation is our best chance to send legislation to the President’s desk thanks to avoiding the Senate filibuster. Democrats used reconciliation to help pass Obamacare in 2010. Last week we used this same reconciliation process to redirect Planned Parenthood funding and begin replacing Obamacare, keeping our promise to the American people.