Still Very Possible: How to Repeal and Replace ObamaCare

The fact that the U.S. Senate has failed by a vote of 47-51 to repeal ObamaCare -- after the House voted 245-189 to do so -- has created the impression that it will no longer be possible to repeal this monstrosity in its entirety and to achieve a "start from scratch" replacement.

This defeatist conclusion is dead wrong...but only if we follow a simple roadmap now circulating among Republican leaders in both the House and Senate.

Both to avoid further futile Senate efforts (however well-intended) to achieve a complete repeal of ObamaCare and, just as importantly, to avoid the deadly siren-song dangers of piecemeal amendments to the existing law, we must focus on an alternative plan which can and should result in a simultaneous repeal and replacement of ObamaCare -- as soon as the time is right, and particularly in the Senate.

Currently being evaluated by a dozen or more Republican senators and an equal number of House GOP leaders is the following roadmap to success in the Congress -- and even to an eventual signature (however reluctant that might be) by the president.

1.  Allow the House-passed repeal of ObamaCare to sit quietly in the Senate for the time being.  Meanwhile, Senate Republicans can focus on the FY-2011 Continuing Resolution, the longer-term budget crisis, the national debt crisis, and the "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs" issue.  Both public opinion and national interest seem to be demanding government attention to these latter areas.

2.  Expedite action in the several relevant House committees to approve bills containing both the few salvageable elements of ObamaCare and those many additional reforms which most Republicans wanted to add last year, when partisan Democrats did not allow them a voice. 

3.  Combine these several House bills (tort reform, pre-existing conditions, children's coverage, insurance across state lines, various pooling options, etc.) into either one multi-title bill or a multi-bill "replacement package," co-sponsored by most if not all House Republicans -- and by even a number of sensible Democrats -- as a total replacement for the fatally flawed ObamaCare law.

4.  Expedite House passage of this multi-part "Greater Opportunities Healthcare Act of 2011" -- so named after the newly re-labeled GOP and containing "consensus" ideas from Senate Republicans, as well, to minimize the need for eventual major Senate amendments -- and send it to the Senate by late March or early April.

5.  Plan for Senate Republicans to combine these two House-passed repeal-and-replace measures -- and develop a strategy for attaching this simultaneous-solutions bill to the most appropriate legislative "vehicle" at the most opportune time. 

Ideally, this might have been the FY 2011 Continuing Resolution, which under "Lame Duck" agreement must be passed by March 4 -- a date which is, unfortunately, much too early to allow adequate Senate consideration of an option so momentous as this.

6. Reconcile in conference whatever minor differences might exist between House and Senate measures -- and send the simultaneous repeal-and-replace legislation (which may well enjoy substantial bipartisan support by that time) to the president for his between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place consideration.

7. Prepare in both Houses to make an all-out effort to override any ill-advised veto -- i.e., any obviously far-left and government-knows-best veto by a president who cannot afford to seem too far out of touch with reality.  And if he does veto, it will be against not only a bare-bones repeal, but against a well-structured replacement measure.  Bipartisan supporters will have an excellent chance of overriding such an action.

8. Remain mindful throughout this process that almost any piecemeal amendment to which the Democrats might agree -- or even any which they might seek -- will tend to improve the law at its political edges but (a) will leave the intrusive, Big Government, jobs-killing core of that law largely intact and (b) will make it all the more difficult to justify the total repeal and replacement of that deadly core.

WARNING: Any such well-intended amendments (e.g., the Senate's recent 81-17 vote to eliminate the ruinous "IRS 1099" reporting mandate on small business) must either be made part of the House replacement bill now taking shape or be added to that bill by the Senate repeal-and-replace procedures set forth above, rather than be enacted by any other procedure aimed at piecemeal amending of (and thereby "saving") ObamaCare itself.

Finally, while some express concern that the House GOP leadership is now insisting on several narrowly targeted bills -- rather than a single, 2,000-page, multi-title "omnibus" measure -- the proposed strategy will still work.

The House merely needs for its half dozen relevant committees to report their bills to the full House in a tight sequence -- and for the House to act on them in a similarly tight sequence -- so as to debate, amend, adopt, and refer them en bloc to the Senate as a clearly designed "package" which can be scored by the CBO, the OMB, and others, rather than as a gaggle of disconnected amendments to existing law. 

It would then be up to Senate Republicans to merge these several items of replacement with the House-passed measure of repeal into a single, multi-title "amendment in the nature of a substitute" for the ruinous ObamaCare law (which would be simultaneously in process of repeal by this same measure).

In summary, this rather simple option of simultaneous repeal and replacement remains fully available -- but only once both House-passed measures are pending in the Senate and can be combined and enacted in the fashion displayed above.

A D.C.-area attorney, writer, and national security strategist, Jim Guirard was longtime chief of staff to former Senators Allen Ellender and Russell Long.  His website focuses on truth-in-language and truth-in-history in public discourse.