Senate parliamentarian: Thumbs-up on reconciliation for ObamaCare repeal

Great news, right? Now all they need is a bill, and 50 votes to pass it. Don’t hold your breath:

Senate Republicans have won an argument before the parliamentarian that will allow a House-passed health care reconciliation bill to be taken up and amended in the Senate next week without any obstacle, CQ Roll Call has learned.

After hearing arguments weeks ago from Democratic and Republican aides, Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough issued her opinion that the House bill (HR 1628) complies with jurisdictional requirements within Senate reconciliation instructions.

The development is significant because it means the hotly debated health care repeal written by the House can move more smoothly through the Senate without procedural problems. There still may be other challenges under the Senate’s Byrd rule, which bars extraneous matter, once the bill is under debate.

Tomorrow, Mitch McConnell will meet with his caucus to roll out the latest version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), which finally qualifies for the name. All he needs is 50 of 52 votes, with Vice President Mike Pence on deck to provide the tiebreaking vote. Pretty simple, right? Mitch can lose two votes and still coast to victory next week.

Er … make that one. Even before the bill emerges, Rand Paul blasted it at Breitbart earlier today as worse than ObamaCare-lite, and a payoff to Big Insurance. The Senate parliamentarian gave a thumbs-up to reconciliation, but Paul doesn’t sound keen on reconciling:

I miss the old days, when Republicans stood for repealing Obamacare. Republicans across the country and every member of my caucus campaigned on repeal – often declaring they would tear out Obamacare “root and branch!”

What happened?

Now too many Republicans are falling all over themselves to stuff hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ dollars into a bill that doesn’t repeal Obamacare and feeds Big Insurance a huge bailout. …

This citizenry won in four elections. Each time, the GOP establishment told conservatives, “We can’t repeal Obamacare until we have all three branches of government.” Finally, in 2016, that came to pass. Republicans now control all three branches of government.

And . . . the best that is offered is Obamacare-lite: keeping the Obamacare subsidies, keeping some of the Obamacare taxes, creating a giant insurance bailout superfund, and keeping most of the Obamacare regulations.

Let’s put him down as a soft ‘no.’

We’ll know more tomorrow about the rest of the caucus, but the big tests will be Ted Cruz on one hand and Susan Collins on the other. To get Cruz, the plan will have to have some openings for innovation within the exchanges, and to get Collins, it will almost certainly have to stop the defunding effort on Planned Parenthood, at least on this legislative vehicle. If Republicans plan to lead on health care reform over the long arc, they have to at least start dismantling ObamaCare now. Otherwise, the acute issues in the marketplaces will force McConnell and Ryan to reach across the aisle for short-term fixes that will create even more complications down the road.