The Affordable Care Act may have found an unlikely ally in Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), who could stymie Republican efforts to repeal it. Paul waded into the debate over the promised repeal of “Obamacare” on Tuesday when he said he would oppose a budget resolution on the ground that it adds significantly to the national deficit.
Paul’s opposition on budget grounds is significant. Party leaders believed they had cooked up an airtight method by which they could repeal much of the ACA even before Trump takes office January 20. They plan to use reconciliation, a special budgetary procedure that cannot be filibustered.
To start, Republicans need to pass a budget resolution with instructions to committees in both chambers to draft their own reconciliation packages. These packages are then combined into a single bill which must pass both chambers. If the two versions have differences, these issues must be resolved and passed again. But here’s the catch: The resolution, should it pass, would see the deficit rising by $1 trillion nearly every year before hitting more than $9 trillion in 2026, bringing the total national debt to $29 trillion.
“It never gets to balance. Not in 10 years, not in 100 years, not in 1,000,” Paul said. “Every Republican that was here voted for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution that said it should balance in five years, but yet they are putting together a budget that never balances.” He added that he is unswayed by the argument presented by members of his own party that the numbers do not matter and are merely a way to fast-track a repeal bill.
Paul pointed out another mathematical problem that sounds much like a threat: It would take only a single Republican voting “no” to the resolution to force party members to rewrite or delay the solution because, until the vice president-elect is sworn in, he will not have the power to cast a tie-breaker vote in the Senate.
If the House and the Senate come to an agreement and adopt identical budget resolutions, the committees then draft the actual repeal bill in each chamber. Both chambers would need to deliver $2 billion in deficit reduction over a decade set by the resolution, but otherwise have the liberty to write the bill’s details within their jurisdiction. But there is a significant limitation: Lawmakers cannot include items that only have an incidental impact on the budget.
In a private meeting Wednesday, Vice President-elect Mike Pence told GOP lawmakers that President-elect Donald Trump plans to take action against Obamacare on his first day in office. Specifically, Trump plans to use executive orders aimed at protecting the insurance marketplace from the blowback of an aggressive repeal. Republicans had vowed to repeal the ACA as soon as possible,