by Frank Cannon
The GOP health care bill, which would have repealed Obamacare and replaced it with the American Health Care Act (AHCA), was withdrawn from the House floor without a vote last Friday after Speaker Paul Ryan failed to achieve a consensus. As The New York Times reported prior to the bill being pulled, President Trump had hoped for an immediate vote on health care, pass or fail, so he could move on to other priorities, such as tax reform.
Included in the AHCA was a plan to divert funding away from Planned Parenthood toward better women’s health care providers, including Community Health Centers, that do not perform abortions. That plan now appears stalled, but it doesn’t have to be. If the AHCA is dead, why not press forward with the Planned Parenthood part of the AHCA as its own bill via the reconciliation process, which only requires a simple majority in the Senate to pass?
The Planned Parenthood language would conform with the Byrd rule as it was passed in 2015. In order to pass it again via reconciliation, the budget would require $1 billion in savings from the Energy & Commerce Committee and $1 billion in savings from the Ways & Means Committee over 10 years. These amounts are reasonable in that they do not go beyond the committees’ abilities to quickly come up with consensus items of savings to couple with the Planned Parenthood savings.
Why not move on from the health care failure by getting this done and giving the pro-life base something to cheer about?
The votes to pass this measure are there in both the House of Representatives and the Senate — even if Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) vote against it, a number of Democrats are likely to support it, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and even if the bill receives no Democrat support, Vice President Pence could break a 50-50 tie to send the bill to the President’s desk.
Time, however, is not on the GOP’s side. This must be done sooner rather than later with the continuing resolution deadline coming up at the end of April.
It would be an absolute disaster if a Republican-led Congress sent a Republican President a continuing resolution bill that funded Planned Parenthood. That is simply not an option, especially after Republicans seemingly failed to follow through on a seven-year promise to repeal Obamacare. It would amount to a stunning betrayal that conservatives would be unlikely to forgive.
But should Republicans fail to use the reconciliation process to divert funding away from Planned Parenthood, they would be forced into an even more difficult position by needing 60 votes to get it done via normal Senate budget rules. And that, my friends, is just not going to happen. Democrats will be more than happy to “resist” and shut down the government in order to protect their favorite abortion provider.
President Trump made a critical campaign promise to the pro-life community that he would stop funding Planned Parenthood. There is no reason why the Republicans’ inability to come together on health care ought to stop GOP leadership and President Trump from following through on that promise.
We have one chance to get this done this year. It has to happen via the reconciliation process. And it has to happen now. The opportunity is there as long as the appetite is also.
Photo credit: American Life League via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0