By Parker Lee - ijr.com
Republicans' long-anticipated Obamacare replacement has received a less than warm reception, even within the party itself.
Among the disappointed is Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who now says he's found a decades-old rule that he hopes will allow Republicans to pass a more thorough, far-reaching health care reform bill.
However, Cruz's strategy — which would leverage the power Vice President Mike Pence has as president of the Senate — “might blow up the Senate too,” Bloomberg Politics notes.
One of the main complaints Republican lawmakers have with the new health care reform bill is that it employs many of the same provisions as its predecessor, with some even labelling it “Obamacare Lite.”
The Hill explains exactly why the scope of this bill is so limited:
House Republicans left several reforms popular with conservatives out of their health care bill because the parliamentarian is likely to rule them outside the scope of special rules in the upper chamber that prevent a Democratic filibuster.
These special rules hinge on what is known as “reconciliation,” a process which allows legislation that affects the budget but has a limited scope to be passed with only a simple Senate majority, leaving such bills immune to filibuster.
Traditionally, it has fallen to the parliamentarian — who advises the Senate “on the interpretation of its rules and procedures” — to determine what should and should not be considered a reconciliation bill.
According to Cruz, however, a provision in the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 would allow Republicans to both drastically increase the scope of their new health care reform bill and still let it fall under reconciliation by essentially bypassing the parliamentarian and leaving that decision up to Vice President Pence.
As Cruz put it:
“Under the Budget Act of 1974, which is what governs reconciliation, it is the presiding officer, the vice president of the United States, who rules on what’s permissible on reconciliation and what is not.
That’s a conversation I’ve been having with a number of my colleagues."
Who exactly those colleagues are remains unclear, though it's known that the Texas senator did meet with both President Trump and Vice President Pence over the course of the last week:
Welcomed @SenTedCruz to my office in the @WhiteHouse. Looking forward to working closely with the Senator on important legislation ahead. pic.twitter.com/F8stH4k1iR
— Vice President Pence (@VP) March 8, 2017
Cruz said this process would allow Republicans to include a number of provisions that would make the health care reform bill much more attractive to conservatives.
For example, Cruz notes that Republicans could “repeal all of the insurance regulations in Obamacare that have increased premiums,” in particular one that decreased competition by preventing insurers from selling across state lines.
Still, it remains to be seen whether or not Cruz's colleagues will be eager to employ the senator's “radical” interpretation of the rule. Being similar to 2013's filibuster reform, it runs the risk of “fundamentally altering the way Congress works.”
In terms of fellow Republicans eager to see a more thorough replacement of Obamacare, however, Cruz certainly has plenty of allies.