Ted Cruz’s Obamacare repeal bill might be the first to be sent to the White House

Democrats in Congress are fond of reminding the public that congressional Republicans have voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act over 50 times. They note, and not without some accuracy, that House Republicans freely forced repeal votes over the course of the last four years as a form of political positioning. None of those repeal measures had any hope of passing the formerly Democrat-led Senate, much less getting to Obama’s desk where it would be vetoed.

That calculation changed slightly when Republicans retook control of the upper chamber of Congress. Today, Obamacare repeal efforts have a reasonable chance of being sent to the White House where the president will be forced to wield his veto pen.

On Monday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced a bill which, according to National Review’s Joel Gehrke, seeks to return the nation to the status quo ante the passage of the ACA. This is not a quixotic effort from the Senate’s leading conservative figure. The bill is co-sponsored by 44 Republicans in the Senate, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Furthermore, the repeal effort has taken on new urgency ahead of a Supreme Court ruling expected this summer in which a majority of justices could find some of the ACA’s critical subsidies illegal. If the Court rules against the White House, it would rob Obamacare of the very mechanism which makes the law viable.

If the court rules against the administration, Americans who enrolled for Obamacare through the federal exchanges would not qualify for subsidies.

“We must send this bill to the president’s desk,” Cruz adds. “If he vetoes it, the GOP Congress should pass bill after bill to stop Obamacare. Each will have broad support among the American people, and Democrats in both chambers will be hard-pressed not to support them. The President will be faced with a clear choice: either listen to the American people, who have never supported this law, or ignore them, and ignore the disastrous harms to millions of families, young people, and the most vulnerable among us.”

If Republicans could get around a Democratic filibuster, Cruz would be the only prospective presidential candidate who could claim to have authored the first Obamacare repeal that passed through Congress.

Some Republican sources are, however, suggesting that this latest repeal vote is merely another symbolic maneuver. “We’re just getting it out of the way,” a GOP source told The Washington Examiner’s Susan Ferrechio. When it comes to embracing a plan that might actually put the president in a political bind and force him to contemplate serious changes to his signature reform, opinions on the best course of action vary greatly.

Conservatives in both the House and Senate are eager to use a procedural maneuver, known as budget reconciliation, which would allow the Senate to pass legislation repealing Obamacare with just 51 votes, not the typical 60 votes.

Senate Democrats used the procedure to pass the healthcare law in 2010 because they lacked the 60 votes needed to thwart a GOP filibuster.

Conservative lawmakers say the Republican leadership touted their pledge to repeal the law prior to the election, but still haven’t developed a legislative game plan.

Democrats will further contend that Republicans are eager to tear down Obamacare but have not yet come together behind a comprehensive proposal that would replace the existing law. On that front, too, there is progress. Over the weekend, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) informed the press that he would lead a working group that will craft a series of health care reform proposals designed to replace Obamacare.

“House leadership said Ryan, the former Republican vice presidential nominee, would join Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and Education and the Workforce Committee John Kline as part of a new health care working group,” The Fiscal Times reported. “House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said a new plan could also provide a ‘patient-centered’ contingency in case the U.S. Supreme Court eliminates federal subsidies used to help people afford private coverage sold through a federal insurance exchange that covers 37 states.”

Republicans are preparing for the eventuality that the Supreme Court strips the ACA of the federal subsidies provided to states which make it a practicable reform. Without those subsidies, the law is dead in all but name. If that does occur, the question will be whether Obama can countenance signing a Republican health care reform proposal into law in order to salvage what is left of his signature reform? If he cannot abide this, can the president justify stonewalling further reform efforts for the remainder of his presidency and cede the issue of health care reform to Republicans ahead of 2016?