Did GOP sell out ObamaCare repeal in budget deal? Update: Trump signs
Among other things, of course, like fiscal responsibility and debt reform? As Jazz noted, Congress passed a bipartisan funding bill and budget agreement for the remainder of FY2018 and also the FY2019 budgets. After waiting out a filibuster-ish delaying tactic from Rand Paul, the Senate passed the bill on a 71-28 vote, with the House following later with a 240-186 vote early this morning. A majority of House Democrats voted “no,” but enough crossed over for passage:
Enough Democrats —73 of them — voted “yes” to offset the 67 Republican defections on the bill to get it over the finish line. The final vote was 240-186, with 167 Republicans voting “yes” and 119 Democrats voting “no.”
The Democrats who voted “no”, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, were taking a stand for so-called Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants brought to U.S. as children who are facing the prospect of deportation without legislation to replace the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.
“Nobody wants a shutdown,” the minority leader said on the floor before the vote. “And this is a good bill. … But give us a chance to allay the fear that is in the hearts of these Dreamers and their families.”
Er … suuuuure. Pelosi helped craft this deal and then praised it while voting against it, demanding action on an issue that her party had already abandoned. It’s pure stunt, and even her caucus members have expressed disgust over it. However, this will likely create some difficult moments for the crossovers with progressive activists, who will likely look for people to punish in the upcoming midterms.
This bill operates on two paths. It acts as a continuing resolution until March 23rd, giving Congress time to put together an omnibus appropriation bill to close out FY2018. It also provides a budget resolution that will allow Congress to immediately begin appropriations for FY2019, with all sides hoping to get that out of the way before the midterm elections. However. that FY2019 budget resolution likely means that the GOP has surrendered on ObamaCare, the editors of National Review pointed out (via Paul Mirengoff at Power Line):
A two-year spending deal means Republicans probably won’t go to the trouble of passing a formal budget for 2019. That would mean no chance for a so-called reconciliation process that could allow them to enact meaningful legislation with only 50 votes in the Senate. If Republicans accept this deal and then forgo the reconciliation process, they will have given up their chance to pass a law without Democratic support, and measures such as easing the Obamacare regulations that will contribute to higher premiums in the coming years or reforming welfare will stand no chance of making it through Congress. With this deal, Republicans are hurting the chance to add to their ledger of accomplishments prior to November.
It’s a good point, although in the end only an academic one. The tax reform bill included a repeal of the ObamaCare individual mandate, which was the most unpopular part of the Affordable Care Act. The budget deal eliminates the Independent Payment Advisory Board, the so-called “death panel” that could have arbitrarily decided whether insurers should cover certain procedures and medications in a full implementation. The previous CR extended a moratorium on the ACA’s medical-device taxes by two years.
That was the low-hanging fruit of ObamaCare. Everything else in the ACA becomes very difficult to repeal without having a successor system immediately at hand to replace it, and Republicans couldn’t agree on a replacement even with reconciliation. It seems highly unlikely that they could accomplish that with another reconciliation vehicle in 2018 with only 51 Senators. If they can pick up several more seats in the midterms, they can add a reconciliation vehicle for the FY2020 budget resolution and try again in the fall of 2019, but that’s a long string of ifs, and it depends on holding the House.
Welfare reform is an even bigger pipe dream. At least with ObamaCare repeal, the GOP had an ally in Donald Trump. The president has made clear that he has no intention of engaging in entitlement reform in this session of Congress and probably not in this presidential term at all. Welfare reform isn’t the most pressing issue in mandatory spending anyway; Medicare is the real crisis in terms of unfunded mandates, and that would split the GOP caucuses with or without reconciliation.
What this does mean is that Republicans can’t even pretend to promise an ObamaCare repeal any longer. Just like they can’t pretend to care about deficits and national debt. At the very least, this has been a clarifying — if depressing — exercise.
Update: No surprise here, but still worth noting.