Parliamentarian sets September deadline for fast-track Affordable Care Act repeal

U.S. Capitol with flag
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have been working on an ACA repeal bill, but the Senate parliamentarian’s ruling Friday just made that measure even more of a long shot. (Getty/Andrea Izzotti)

For Republicans still hoping to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with only a simple majority, the task has gotten even more daunting.

The Senate parliamentarian ruled Friday that the fast-track method Republicans would use to get an ACA repeal bill around a filibuster in the Senate, known as budget reconciliation, will expire Sept. 30, according to Bloomberg.

And House Republicans’ budget resolution for fiscal year 2018—which starts Oct. 1—does not include any instructions on healthcare, Politico noted. Thus, the GOP is unlikely to get an ACA repeal do-over next year. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said in a statement to Bloomberg that the parliamentarian’s ruling is a “major victory” for those seeking to thwart ACA repeal attempts. 

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This isn’t the first time that the parliamentarian, Elizabeth McDonough, has complicated Republicans’ ACA repeal efforts. In late July, she issued guidance stating that 11 provisions in the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) would not pass muster under the Senate’s rules for budget reconciliation, requiring the bill to be revised.

Ultimately, the BCRA, a “repeal-and-delay” bill and a more narrowly focused “skinny repeal” bill all failed to obtain enough Republican votes to pass in the Senate—representing a major blow to the GOP’s legislative agenda and its long-repeated promise to unwind the ACA. 

Since then, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee has scheduled a series of hearings in hopes of crafting a bipartisan bill to stabilize the ACA exchanges. In the House, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and Tom MacArthur, R-N.J., are formulating their own stabilization package. 

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., meanwhile, have been working on an ACA repeal bill that would reroute funding earmarked for the law directly to states in the form of annual block grants. The parliamentarian’s ruling, though, just made that measure even more of a long shot.