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Why GOP's Obamacare Reconciliation Effort Is Doomed

McConnell says he'll try to repeal Obamacare again though he has acknowledged it won't become law. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans are touting — again — another doomed effort to repeal Obamacare while President Barack Obama remains president.  

The latest pledge has been in the works for a while, using special budget rules to get a repeal — or a very large chunk of a repeal — through the Senate and onto the president's desk using a filibuster-proof reconciliation measure. The most obvious reason why such an effort is doomed is that Obama still wields a veto pen and will use it, and Republicans aren't close to having the 67 Senate votes and 290 House votes needed to ensure a veto override.  

Using reconciliation rules is also fraught with other problems, most notably that reconciliation is supposed to be used to reduce the deficit, and repealing the law in its entirety, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would increase the deficit, even when Republican-mandated dynamic scoring is applied.  

There are ways around that via budgetary gimmickry — or by attaching other real spending cuts or tax hikes to the bill — but that will give Democrats an opportunity to counter-attack.  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has already acknowledged the effort is doomed, but he and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, have announced they're going to go through with it anyway.  

The move has been cheered by conservative group Heritage Action, which issued a memo touting the idea  even though they acknowledge it won't become law. Instead, they suggest it as a way to put presidential candidates on the record and the health industry on notice.  

On the thorny deficit question, Heritage suggests overcoming that by having the Senate Budget Committee not use the official CBO score of a repeal but instead come up with its own score, and avoiding what would be the problem known as the "Byrd Rule" limiting non-budget matters by having a bill start in the House and contain a single provision repealing the whole law.  

Here's McConnell's statement:

"Earlier this year, Senate Republicans passed a balanced budget, and with it the necessary procedural tools - via the budget reconciliation process - to bring an end to the nightmare of Obamacare.  Americans have faced skyrocketing health care costs, rampant fraud and more government between them and their doctors. And Republicans are united in working to repeal the broken promises of Obamacare and allow our country to start over fresh with real health reform that Americans deserve.  We will continue our effort to use reconciliation - as the budget makes clear - to fulfill the promise we made to our constituents.”
Here's Lee's:
"Americans deserve quality health care at affordable prices and Obamacare is giving them the exact opposite. A Senate vote to repeal Obamacare on a simple majority basis through reconciliation is the best way to pursue that goal. The Majority Leader and I are committed to using reconciliation to repeal Obamacare in the 114th Congress.”

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