Policy

First Health Care Repeal Deadline Missed by Congress

Ways and Means, Energy report expected in mid-to-late February

Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., leaves the House Republican Conference meeting in the Capitol on Tuesday, June 2, 2015. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The four authorizing committees in the House and Senate that were directed to mark up their portions of a bill to repeal the health care law officially missed the deadline Friday.

That is no surprise.

Even when the two chambers were considering a stripped-down fiscal 2017 budget resolution with reconciliation instructions earlier this month, there was little expectation Republicans would unify around a repeal plan before the budget resolution’s Jan. 27 deadline for the committees to report legislation to their Budget committees.

Members of the House Budget Committee told Roll Call Jan. 23 they anticipate that Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce will report in mid-to-late February. Interim House Budget Chairwoman Diane Black, R-Tenn., confirmed this at the GOP retreat later in the week.

It is unclear when the Senate Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees will report, or even if they will report, legislation to repeal the health care law.

Reconciliation is an expedited procedure under which budget-related legislation can pass with a simple majority in the Senate. In order to use it, the House and Senate have to adopt a budget resolution with reconciliation instructions directing authorizing committees to produce legislation that changes spending or revenue or reduces the deficit. The committees must report the legislation to their respective Budget committees, which then are required to package it into a bill or bills without substantive revision.

There’s no penalty for missing the reporting deadline, and it has been missed before.

Over the past 26 years, authorizing committees have failed to report on time for seven of the last 14 reconciliation bills that have been passed by Congress. Usually, committees only missed the deadline by a few days. Rarely, committees overshot the mark by a month or more.

Senate at work

Julia Lawless, a spokeswoman for Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, said the Utah Republican is “working with the committee chairmen involved to produce a bill that will repeal the law and include as many replace policies as possible, given the constraints of the reconciliation process.”

Hatch also “continues to focus on ensuring a responsible transition period to move away from Obamacare and toward reforms that will put patients first and address costs,” Lawless said.

Many lawmakers have heard that the House will move first on reconciliation, marking up and passing its repeal bill before the Senate does. Exactly how this would play out is unclear. GOP leaders have not offered any specifics on process or timing.

When the GOP-controlled Congress passed a bill to repeal the health care law in the last Congress, the House went first. House authorizing committees reported proposals to the Budget Committee, which in turn packaged them into a repeal bill. The House passed the repeal and sent it to the Senate.

Instead of going through the regular process of reporting its own bill, the Senate amended the House bill with a substitute, which greatly broadened the scope of the repeal. The Senate passed that bill, the House cleared it Jan. 6, 2016, and President Barack Obama vetoed it.    Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.