Capitol Correspondence - 06.05.17

Senate Returns from Recess Facing Continuing Challenges to Health Care Reform

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Senators back in session after the 10-day Memorial Day recess are reportedly increasingly pessimistic about passing a health care bill that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The House passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) just over a month ago, and the Senate has been scrambling to rewrite and rework the bill into something that will keep enough Senators’ votes to pass. (See WICs article, “House Narrowly Passes AHCA, All Eyes Shift to Senate,” May 5, 2017). Given the current makeup of the Senate, Republicans can only afford to lose two votes, assuming all Democrats vote against the measure as expected. Because the bill is being advanced as a budget reconciliation bill rather than through regular order, there are additional considerations the Senate must account for that do not apply on the House side, specifically the “Byrd Rule” which does not allow extraneous provisions that do not directly impact spending in a budget reconciliation bill. It is expected that Democrats will challenge pieces of the House-passed AHCA under the Byrd rule, requiring the Senate Parliamentarian to make determinations and rulings on the content of the Senate bill prior to floor proceedings. 
Several Republican Senators have expressed skepticism about coming to agreement on the bill, including Richard Burr (R-NC) who said it’s “unlikely that we will get a health care deal” and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) who said he doubted a bill could pass before the August recess. Despite the skepticism, party leaders and others see the high stakes involved and are determined to push a bill through. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) said the Senate will have a bill voted on no later than July. Vice President Mike Pence has also put pressure on the Senate, saying that a health care reform measure must be completed by the end of the summer. 
Given the flurry of activity occurring in the Senate this week on the AHCA, ANCOR has spearheaded an effort in D.C. to bring providers, advocates, and family members together to bring their stories to the Senate. We are urging everyone who can make it to D.C. to visit their Senators on June 6, and attend a rally focused on Medicaid. For those who are unable to come to D.C., we have a toolkit and resources available online to help you set up in-district meetings and events, and urge you to call in to your Senators’ offices to tell your story of the importance of the Medicaid program to the services you offer. More details and resources are available on our website,