Belated House GOP Approval for Replacing ObamaCare?
After three long years of cautious resistance to comprehensive replacement of ObamaCare, the House Republican leadership seems ready to approve of legislative hearings and eventual House action on major proposals to that effect -- namely, to proactively support the Republican Study Committee's HR 3121 (with well over 100 co-sponsors) and Rep./Dr. Tom Price's overlapping HR 2300 (with over 40 co-sponsors).
These two proposals -- like Rep. Price's HR 3400 in 2011 and HR 3000 in 2012 -- can all be traced back to the March 2010 House debates and razor-thin 219-212 House passage of ObamaCare. It was then that GOP leaders (then in the minority) proposed a comprehensive "Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute" -- which would almost surely have passed and would have "partial-birth aborted" ObamaCare, but which was quickly "tabled" on Speaker Nancy Pelosi's party-line procedural vote instead.
Since then, the GOP leadership, believing that a) free-standing repeal without replacement or b) repeal via defunding or c) the Supreme Court might solve the problem, and fearing also that deeply divided Republicans would fall into self-destructive warfare over what total replacement should involve, opted to avoid such intra-party conflict.
But now that hoped-for rescue by the Supreme Court, by bare-bones repeal, and by bare-bones defunding have all failed, the House GOP is finally -- some say very belatedly -- returning to the "regular order" legislative process of crafting what will be called "De Facto Repeal via Comprehensive Replacement."
An Early Appeal in the American Thinker
Predating all of this by almost three years was a widely distributed (but unheeded) op-ed by this writer here at the American Thinker. Entitled "Still Time for a Simultaneous Repeal and Replacement," the February 2011 essay's recommendations back then have evolved into the following six "regular order" legislative steps today:
1. Using the new HR 3121 and HR 2300 bills as major building blocks, begin several weeks of hearings in the various House "committees of jurisdiction" to design measures which contain new versions of the few (very few) sensible elements of ObamaCare -- along with those many private-sector and non-bureaucratic reforms that most Republicans have always favored.
2. Combine these committee-approved bills (tort reform, pre-existing conditions, personal health care accounts, insurance across state lines, children's coverage, various pooling options, etc.) into either one "omnibus" bill or a multi-part "replacement package" for each and every element of the fatally flawed ObamaCare law - and repealing thereby the concomitant parts of its 15,000-page regulatory and IRS-dominated enforcement machinery as well.
3. Following several weeks of House hearings and bill-crafting during the rest of this year and early next, schedule House action for February or early March of next year when "regular order" debate, voting, and final passage would occur -- with bipartisan support by all Republicans and by some 50-70 terrified Democrats, thanks to ObamaCare's ever-increasing unpopularity.
4. Send this truly bipartisan bill to the Senate, and insist on "regular order" (no dilatory filibusters, no perverse Motions to Table) debate and record votes throughout -- which radical-left Senators Reid, Schumer, Durbin, and others have repeatedly promised in recent Senate debates to do, as long as that is not "with a gun pointed at our heads" on threat of a government shutdown.
5. Reconcile in conference committee whatever differences might exist between House and Senate versions -- and send this de facto repeal-by-replacement legislation (which should enjoy substantial bipartisan public support by then) to our hopelessly narcissistic president for his likely veto.
6. Prepare in both Houses to make an all-out effort to override any such ill-advised veto -- whose election-year outcome at a time when ObamaCare has fallen ever deeper into its death spiral will impact heavily on which party eventually wins control of both the House and Senate during Obama's last two "lame duck" years in office.
In this context, all serious planning for the eventual demise and burial of ObamaCare must now be focused on how the legislative design, perfection, and passage of a fair and balanced replacement measure by the House -- which is sufficiently bipartisan to force the Senate to debate and vote on the merits of all major elements, rather than turn to a series of cowardly Harry Reid-style "Motions to Table."
Can We "Trust but Verify" These Honorable Senators?
While there is no absolute guarantee that these Democrat assurances of item #4 above will be honored in full, we seem to have no real options but to "trust but verify." Knowing how absolutely true to their solemn word these "honorable senators" are supposed to be, the Senate would then proceed without fear of dilatory filibusters, or of "votes to table" or of blocking all or most amendments of either side. And at long last, we would be able to witness -- win or lose -- an open-minded, fair, and balanced return to a "regular order" consideration of what will have become a truly bipartisan House-passed bill of total replacement.
In the days and weeks ahead -- assuming that the still conflicted House GOP leadership finally rises to the occasion -- and with this legislative replacement effort being the only realistic game in town:
a) most TeaParty types will come around and begin focusing on thoughtful testimony to the hearings;
b) the health care industry, doctors, hospitals, and think-tanks will offer their much needed advice;
c) most Progressive-Socialist (ProgSoc) Democrats will loudly oppose and continue to demonize; and
d) at least 60-70 worried House Democrats will eventually vote yea -- because for the first time, they will have something sensible to vote for, which just happens to remove the rotting ObamaCare albatrosses from their necks.
Finally, proponents of this "regular order" approach should remain mindful that almost any piecemeal amendment that might improve the law at its edges (a) would leave the intrusive, Big-Brother, jobs-killing, hugely complex core of this ruinous law intact and (b) would also make it all the more difficult to justify total replacement of that deadly bureaucratic core.
Any such well-intended changes (e.g., the House and Senate votes in 2011 to eliminate the ruinous "IRS 1099" reporting mandate on small business) must either be made part of the House bill or be added as an integral part by the Senate, rather than be enacted separately and possibly helping to "save" the Gordian knot -- or is it the hangman's noose? -- of ObamaCare itself.
Assuming that this promising movement toward repeal via replacement actually succeeds during 2014 or early 2015, its timeframe for completion is largely unpredictable -- except to say that it will probably take about as long as the four years the ObamaCare fiasco has taken to achieve its ongoing collapse.
A D.C.-area attorney, writer, and national security strategist, Jim Guirard was longtime chief of staff to former U.S. senators Allen Ellender and Russell Long. His TrueSpeak.org website is devoted to truth in language and truth in history in public discourse.