“We … will take steps to protect taxpayer dollars from programs and organizations that do not live up to the standards and priorities of the American people,” said Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton in a statement. “As this committee continues to investigate Planned Parenthood and its affiliates, the flow of taxpayer dollars should end.”
Budget rules allow for a reconciliation bill to contain multiple provisions in different areas, as long as they all fall within the jurisdiction of the five relevant committees.
Several steps of the reconciliation process remain, but it seems that as the dust is settling, the future is becoming more clear: Congress will pass a continuing resolution that funds both the government and Planned Parenthood until December, and then at some point it will pass a bill that both repeals major pieces of the Affordable Care Act and defunds Planned Parenthood. Obama, of course, will veto the bill.
Specifics aside, the procedural tool will be used as a way for congressional Republicans to gain a small, if largely symbolic, victory after a long summer of falling on the losing side of intense partisan debates in the health care arena. If all goes according to plan, it will allow the GOP to point to concrete examples of what it has done as the majority party in both chambers of Congress, but also of what could become law under a new president with different values in 2017.
Reconciliation first became a subject of fierce debate as Congress waited for the Supreme Court to decide King v. Burwell, a case challenging subsidies given under the ACA on federal exchanges. Had the Court ruled against the Obama administration, it would have blown a hole in the law and threatened the health coverage of thousands. Several plans to temporarily extend subsidies while repealing big pieces of the law began emerging in the Senate, introduced by Republicans but dismissed as nonstarters by Democrats. Reconciliation came up as a way to put the “King fixes” on the president’s desk without the assistance of Democrats.
But the Supreme Court sided with the administration and the law was left intact, leaving Republicans with the sudden dilemma of what came next—if anything—in their relentless quest against Obamacare. The answer quickly emerged: The GOP, for the most part, punted to 2017 and the possibility of a Republican president who will sign a repeal bill.
But before that, they said, reconciliation could be used to put an Obamacare repeal in front of the president, as congressional Republicans had promised the voters who sent them to Washington they would. While it seemed widely understood that this was the most likely use of the budget tool, however, leadership repeatedly emphasized that there was no rush to use it.
“It’s still open. No final decision has been made,” Sen. John Barrasso told reporters in early July. “Had the Supreme Court ruled the other way, there would have been an immediacy to have to use reconciliation with regard to a King decision, but since the decision went the other way, that immediacy isn’t there. So reconciliation is still a useful tool, and I expect it to be used.”