On Thursday, May 4, the Republican-led House of Representatives accomplished a feat that many observers thought wouldn't happen, one that's sent a rolling wave of fear and panic through progressives, universal health care advocates, and everyday citizens with pre-existing health conditions. Namely, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed the House, a bill which in an earlier form would've knocked more than 20 million Americans off their health insurance, according to the Congressional Budget Office. So, the big question: Will the AHCA become law?
That, for the time being, is no longer the concern of House Republicans, although there's a very good chance they'll have to make another vote on it sometime in the future. With the bill sliding through the House by the narrowest of margins, and with no Democratic support, it's now moving onto the U.S. Senate for consideration.
However, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as a number of high-ranking Republicans, it's not going to even bother debating the bill as it currently exists. Rather, Senate Republicans are planning to rewrite the bill, passing its own Obamacare replacement and sending that back to the House.
In simple terms, the Senate is trying to duck a vote that could cost millions upon millions of people their health care, and is instead planning to draft something less wildly objectionable to so many people. One assumes it will look, at the very least, like a more passable or humane version of Speaker Paul Ryan's prized piece of legislation, although it's impossible to know what it'll entail until it's written.
Instead, according to the latest reports, the Senate's plan seems to be to send its new bill back to the House, putting the full weight of the decision back onto its shoulders. Then, with the prospect of successfully replacing Obamacare firmly in view, the House GOP ― clearly a group starved for celebration ― would have to decide to torpedo all their efforts in order to vote it down. It's a strong-armed, power politics approach to a very fraught political moment, and it's not hard to imagine it paying off.
If it did, the bill would then go to President Donald Trump's desk for signature, and he'd almost definitely sign it into law. The only scenario in which he'd veto the bill would be if it plainly violated enough of his campaign promises (as it currently does by massively cutting Medicaid, knocking millions off their health coverage, and stripping protections for those with pre-existing conditions) that he felt he'd come out looking virtuous to halt its passage, even while rebuking his own party. And, considering Trump stridently, falsely insists the bill doesn't do those things, that seems like a very remote possibility.
In other words, it's still too early to say whether the AHCA will become law. Certainly, a groundswell of activist fervor of the sort that sunk the first House vote could do the same in the Senate. And with the Senate planning to author its own bill, there's no guarantee what they ultimately pass will be called the AHCA anymore, nor how much it'll resemble the original bill.
But if you're simply wondering whether the GOP will actually replace Obamacare? The answer is they have the majorities in both chambers of Congress and the White House, so they most definitely could.