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Will the Senate Heed Calls for a Pro-life Healthcare Bill?

Evan Wilt | WORLD News Service | Updated: Jun 02, 2017

Will the Senate Heed Calls for a Pro-life Healthcare Bill?

Republicans are heading for a tipping point in healthcare negotiations and pro-life groups hope lawmakers don’t abandon safeguards for unborn children amid the legislative brawl.

House Republicans passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) on May 4—you may have seen the photos of beaming lawmakers celebrating with President Donald Trump on the White House lawn. But that was just the first, and frankly, the easiest step in a long process to fulfill the GOP promise of repealing and replacing Obamacare.

Top House negotiators worked for weeks to ease concerns within the Republican conference and whip just enough votes to get over the finish line. But most Senate Republicans didn’t like the end product and plan to write their own legislation. Staffers are hard at work drafting legislation to give their bosses something to work with when they return to Washington on Monday. Sometime over the next few weeks, Republican and Democratic lawyers will convene with Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, to ensure each provision of the legislation they bring forward falls under the arcane rules of the budget reconciliation process.

Fortunately for pro-lifers, the Senate has precedent to defund Planned Parenthood within healthcare legislation.

“It’s hard for me to imagine the Senate coming up with a bill that isn’t pro-life,” Tom McClusky, vice president of government affairs for March for Life Action, told me. “If they were to pass healthcare legislation that funded abortion, that would be such a step in the wrong direction, and it would be the Republican Party making it. I don’t see how pro-lifers or the Republican Party rebounds.”

Because Republicans are using the budget reconciliation process to avoid a Democratic filibuster, they can only advance legislation that has a direct budgetary impact for each of its provisions. That’s easy when dealing with taxes and federal expenditures, but some provisions included in the AHCA—such as state waivers to opt out of certain regulations—don’t have a clear budgetary impact.

Republicans already went through this process about 18 months ago. Using the same budget reconciliation process, the GOP passed legislation in January 2016 to repeal large parts of Obamacare, which included defunding Planned Parenthood. President Barack Obama promptly vetoed the legislation, but the bill cleared MacDonough’s review.

McClusky told me precedent weighs heavily on the parliamentarian, and since she approved the defunding measure before, it should pass muster this time as well.

But questions remain. MacDonough has not reviewed other pro-life provisions wrapped into healthcare, such as banning refundable individual tax credits that pay for abortions. Democrats will challenge that provision, claiming it violates reconciliation rules.

Senators will have the opportunity to restructure the bill to clear protocol if they run into roadblocks. But that could add more time to what most already expect to be a long process.

Michael Cannon, the Cato Institute’s director of health policy studies, told me even if Congress immediately agreed on healthcare legislation, it’s still unlikely we’ll have a new healthcare law this summer. It’s possible Republicans could extend negotiations until 2018, he said.

Cannon told me the best strategy for the GOP may be to do nothing and let Obama’s health law implode.

“The longer they go without doing anything the more the actions of insurance companies will reflect the cost and uncertainty that Obamacare imposes, and the more it will focus Congress’ attention on the real problems,” Cannon said. “So it may be that things have to get worse before they get better—but things can get better.”


Courtesy: WORLD News Service

Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Publication date: June 2, 2017

Will the Senate Heed Calls for a Pro-life Healthcare Bill?