Republicans in Congress have been leading the charge to repeal the Affordable Care Act since it came into effect. With the law's originator serving as president, those attempts have been unsuccessful. Now, with Republicans controlling both chambers of Congress and the White House, they will likely succeed. Normally, the minority party in the Senate has the power to block undesired legislation, but Senate Republicans are gearing up to employ a legislative maneuver known as "reconciliation" to prevent Democrats from doing so. What is reconciliation, the move that could repeal Obamacare?
Reconciliation takes power away from the minority party by making a filibuster impossible. A filibuster, which is possible to implement regarding most pieces of legislation in the Senate, occurs when a senator refuses to allow a vote on a piece of legislation by keeping the debate going; debate can theoretically go on endlessly in the Senate. Filibustering therefore effectively blocks legislation from passing. It takes votes from 60 senators to break a filibuster and call a vote on the piece of legislation in question.. Since Republicans have only a very slim majority in the chamber, they wouldn't likely be able to overcome one.
Reconciliation takes away the option to filibuster by placing limits on the amount of time a piece of legislation is allowed to be debated. The move can be implemented on pieces of legislation regarding spending, taxes, and federal debt. It expedites the process of introduction, debate, and passage or blockage.
Republicans were actually able to pass a repeal of Obamacare through both chambers of Congress in January using reconciliation in the Senate, but Obama vetoed them. They're planning to bring back the maneuver in 2017 -- this time with a president who's likely to be on board. Politico reported that Senate Budget Chair Mike Enzi expressed support for repealing Obamacare via a reconciliation bill. Interestingly, the Affordable Care Act initially passed as reconciliation legislation. It will likely go out as it came in.
What exactly a swift move to repeal Obamacare would mean remains unclear. What Republicans replace it with, and what kind of transition period they outline, will determine how quickly and smoothly that transition goes. There will be plenty of political pressure on GOP lawmakers and on Trump to ensure that millions of people do not suddenly lose their health insurance. According to the Center for American Progress, though, a repeal of the law in early 2017 may lead insurance providers to jump ship well before the repeal is actually enacted, causing an immediate dip in coverage for many people.
Obamacare is poised for the chopping block, and Republicans aren't leaving Democrats much wiggle room to do anything about it by introducing the repeal as a reconciliation bill.