Senate passes budget that paves way for ACA repeal

After a contentious round of late-night voting, the Senate passed a budget resolution that clears the way for repealing major tenets of the Affordable Care Act.

The resolution, which contains instructions for key House and Senate committees to dismantle the ACA through the budget reconciliation, passed 51-48 without any Democratic support.

Democrats voiced their displeasure by forcing Republicans to vote against a slew of mostly symbolic amendments aimed at preserving more popular parts of the healthcare reform law. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., for example, introduced an amendment that would “create a point of order against legislation that would make people with disabilities and chronic conditions sick again.”

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker also withdrew an amendment that he and four other Republican senators introduced earlier this week, which would have extended the deadline for congressional committees to write an ACA repeal bill from Jan. 27 to March 3. Corker said Republican leadership assured him that the Jan. 27 deadline wasn’t a firm deadline to write a budget reconciliation bill, but rather more of a “placeholder” date, according to Politico.

The budget resolution now heads to the House. In that chamber, Republicans will face less resistance than they otherwise could have, as the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus won’t take an official position on the budget resolution, the National Journal reported. Without the support of most of the caucus’ members, the House GOP might not have had enough votes to pass the resolution.

The group had previously said it would be inclined to encourage a delay in voting on the resolution in the absence of more details about an ACA replacement timeline, FierceHealthPayer has reported.

The apparent softening of Republican dissent regarding the party’s plan to dismantle the ACA may be due in part to President-elect Donald Trump’s recent statements supporting a swift repeal and replacement of the law.

Trump said Wednesday that his administration will submit a near-simultaneous repeal and replacement plan as soon as Tom Price, his pick for Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, is approved. But while the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will conduct a courtesy hearing with Price next Wednesday, Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, said Price’s confirmation may not come until mid-February, according to Roll Call.

Speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday, Alexander also laid out a detailed plan for how he believes Republicans should go about repealing and replacing the ACA. Among other elements, his plan calls for only repealing the law once a “there are concrete, practical reforms in place,” and continuing cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers during the transition.