What’s next for health care in the Senate

At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Senate Republicans confirmed that they do not have enough votes to pass their latest bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced they would not vote on the latest bill from Senators Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., this week, Republicans could return to their campaign promise to repeal former president Obama’s signature health care law down the road.

Graham told reporters Republicans may return to it again soon after they tackle tax reform.

In the meantime, some senators from both sides have expressed some interest in and optimism about bipartisan negotiations that had been taking place in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee. Earlier this month, that committee held a number of hearings with governors, insurers and state officials about ways to lower costs and stabilize the individual insurance markets under the so-called Obamacare law.

Today, both the Republican chair and Democratic ranking member of the committee expressed willingness to come back to the table and attempt to reach a deal on smaller fixes to the current law now that a repeal effort had been shelved.

“We are ready to move forward on the kind of agreement they’ve talked about,” said McConnell, signaling leadership may be on board too.

Timeline challenges

After September 30, Republicans cannot pass legislation with a simple majority of 51 votes using the parliamentarian process of reconciliation — however, they can try once again to vote using reconciliation in the next fiscal year. In order to do that, Republicans need to pass a new budget resolution with health care language in the House and the Senate.

“They could easily include language in the budget that preserved the option of including repeal and replace in reconciliation without committing to doing so or making it likely,” said Ed Lorenzen, of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

But GOP leaders plan to use the process of reconciliation to pass tax reform. Leaving the door open to health care reform would likely complicate those efforts.

“If you had to put your money somewhere you’d put it on the side of ‘no big health care reform,’ and instead a focus on smaller things,” said Joseph Antos, senior health care policy expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

“The possibility that some big Republican health reform will…

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