The call notes and link for the call are below. Please be sure to let me know if you hear that your member of Congress will be hosting a town hall event! Whether it is in person or via social media, we would like to let other Sentinels know about the event. If you participate, make signs asking for FULL REPEAL of Obamacare and also ask your member of Congress if they will keep their word for FULL REPEAL.
The House and Senate are both in recess this week.
Upcoming Townhalls: Want to talk to your member of Congress at an upcoming town hall? Click here to find a town hall taking place near you.
Obamacare Repeal Timeline Slipping: Last month, Congress passed the FY 2017 “shell” budget resolution (S. CON. RES. 3), which begins the filibuster-proof process of repealing Obamacare through budget reconciliation by setting up instructions for the House Ways & Means Committee, the House Energy & Commerce Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, and the Senate Health & Education & Labor & Pensions Committee to write a budget reconciliation bill that repeals Obamacare. Heritage Action key voted the budget resolution since “it’s the only way to expedite the repeal of Obamacare.” Once the bills pass out of their respective committees they go to the Budget Committee. The Budget Committee then passes one unified repeal bill which the House and the Senate can then pass with a simple majority and President Trump can sign into law.
Despite passing the budget resolution last month, Congress is still in the process of writing the budget reconciliation bill repealing Obamacare. Heritage Action released the following statement: “Seven in ten Americans believe the longer Congress waits, the less likely Obamacare repeal becomes a reality. Congress cannot allow the timeline to continue to slip. Not only does it delay work on other legislative priorities, but millions of Americans are suffering from the harmful side effects of Obamacare. The law must be repealed so we can begin the process of creating a patient-centered replacement.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) seems to agree stating in a recent interview: “I don’t think we have the luxury of this (Obamacare repeal) dragging out for a lengthy period of time. There is a reason to wrap it up. This is a very intense effort of consultation with all three branches about how to do this in the relatively near future. We want to complete this exercise before we get to the second budget reconciliation for tax reform.” According to news reports, the House Energy & Commerce Committee is planning to markup its Obamacare reconciliation bill on March 1st and House Republican Leadership has circulated a repeal and replace outline of potential legislation.
Unfortunately, the Obamacare repeal timeline is slipping and moving dangerously close to when the federal government runs out of funding on April 28th and when insurance companies must submit proposed premiums for 2018 Obamacare plans on May 3rd. Republicans promised to fully repeal Obamacare, campaigned on full repeal, and voted over 60 times to repeal parts or all of the disastrous healthcare law. Last November, the American people voted to give Republicans unified control of the federal government, yet Republicans are failing to capitalize on this momentum to repeal Obamacare and allowing momentum to protect Obamacare grow. Some Republicans are even posturing that they want to repair Obamacare or may oppose repeal unless replace comes simultaneously. But holding Obamacare repeal hostage for replace guarantees its defeat since Democrats will never vote to repeal Obamacare and Republicans may disagree on a thousand-plus-page replacement bill. This is exactly what former President Obama and Senate Democrats want Republicans to do in order to ensure repeal never happens. Delaying repeal also prolongs the current healthcare crisis and fails to deliver relief for those struggling to pay for unaffordable premiums on the Obamacare exchanges.
Conservatives need to continue pushing for full repeal as soon as possible by actively participating in town halls, writing letters to the editor, and contacting their member of Congress. Congress should take immediate action to pass the Obamacare repeal reconciliation bill this month. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) is now confirmed as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Republicans already have Obamacare repeal language from 2015 to use as a blueprint. There are no more excuses.
Last year, Congress used budget reconciliation to pass an Obamacare repeal bill that was ultimately vetoed by the President. But now that voters elected to give Republicans a unified government, Congress can successfully use the same process to repeal Obamacare. Congress should write and pass a one-sentence reconciliation bill that fully repeals Obamacare. The next best option would be for Congress to take the reconciliation bill that repealed Obamacare (with a two-year transition period), but was vetoed earlier last year (H.R. 3762), and pass it again with additional language repealing the Obamacare insurance mandates – a central reason health insurance premiums continue to rise. The third and minimal option would be for Congress to simply re-pass H.R. 3762, which does not include the repeal of insurance mandates and other important provisions.
Once Republicans repeal as much of Obamacare as possible through budget reconciliation, Congress can then debate and pass a series of conservative, free-market healthcare reforms that enact consumer choice, strengthen the doctor-patient relationship and lower costs. After that, Congress can pass a second budget for fiscal year 2018 that lowers spending levels and achieves other conservative priorities such as tax reform. This two budget strategy will ensure that momentum for repeal does not stall. It also provides ample time for individuals who have insurance through the Obamacare exchanges to transition back to the individual market without losing coverage.
This strategy is gaining momentum among conservative lawmakers as Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) are calling on Republican Leadership to use the 2015 Obamacare repeal bill as, at a minimum, the starting point for repeal and that repeal must come before replace. Sen. Lee stated that adding a replacement measure to a repeal bill is “a horrible idea” and that “we need to repeal it first before deciding what comes next. There’s a lot of agreement among Republicans in Congress with regard to repeal. We were able to get that passed last year. But there is a lot less agreement on what comes next.”
Click here to read Sentinel Ed Smith’s experience at a recent town hall. Click here to read the newest Sentinel brief on repealing Obamacare. Click here to read five guiding policies Republicans should pass to reform America’s healthcare system after Obamacare is repealed.
Confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court: On January 31st, President Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the Supreme Court and fill the vacancy left by the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Judge Gorsuch is a nominee very much in the mold of the late Justice Scalia and will, based on his record, interpret the text of the Constitution as originally written rather than create unwritten rights supposedly hidden between the lines. Judge Gorsuch has a long record of conservative jurisprudence, most notably upholding religious liberty in the cases of Hobby Lobby v. Burwell and Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell, and maintains a deep respect for the separation of powers laid out in the Constitution. His academic experience – graduate of Columbia University, Harvard Law School and Oxford University, as well as his professional experience – clerked for Justice Byron White and Justice Kennedy and served ten years on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, make him overwhelming qualified.
Thankfully, over the past few weeks, nine Senate Democrats argued Judge Gorsuch deserves an up-or-down vote. These comments signal to Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that he does not have enough votes to stage a filibuster and stop Judge Gorsuch from receiving a vote and being confirmed. The Senate should quickly carry out its ‘Advise and Consent’ role and confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. The Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled hearings for March 20th. The hearings will mostly likely last a week, after which time the committee must approve Judge Gorsuch before a Senate floor vote to confirm. Click here to read the newest Sentinel brief on Neil Gorsuch and here to read Heritage Action’s statement of support.
Earmarks: A week after the resounding election of a President who campaigned to “drain the swamp” and end cronyism, Republicans in Congress attempted to lift the six-year old ban on earmarks behind closed doors. Earmarks are a form of pork-barrel spending politicians use to pass bad spending bills and redirect taxpayer dollars back to their own districts or states. Republican members including Reps. John Culberson of Texas, Mike Rogers of Alabama, Tom Rooney of Florida and Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania were the four leading proponents of lifting the ban. According to multiple news reports, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) tabled the earmark proposal just before it was about to pass, but Ryan promised to create an internal working group to study the issue and propose a way forward by March 31st. Conservatives must continue to hold the line on earmarks and be prepared to fight for its defeat in the House. Conservatives should encourage their congressmen to support the current ban on earmarks. Click here to read a Daily Signal article discussing a recent conservative memo against earmarks.
Dodd-Frank Repeal: President Trump recently issued an executive order (EO) taking aim at Dodd-Frank and establishing a series of principles for how “to regulate the U.S. financial system.” This EO is a positive sign from the President in support of Congressional efforts to repeal Dodd-Frank. In 2016, Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) successfully passed his Dodd-Frank replacement bill out of the House Financial Services Committee. Named the Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers, and Entrepreneurs Act (H.R. 5983), Financial CHOICE Act for short, the passage of this bill out of committee was a significant first step toward full repeal of the misnamed Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Dodd-Frank codifies “too big to fail” policy, harms local community banks, restricts access to credit for investors and homebuyers, raises lending costs, reduces access to capital for small businesses, and created one of the most powerful and unaccountable federal agencies — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Evidence shows Dodd-Frank is one of the major factors responsible for the country’s historically slow economic recovery.
Now that Congress has a President supportive of ending Dodd-Frank, Chairman Hensarling has a perfect opportunity to improve and pass Financial CHOICE Act 2.0 out of his committee and onto the House floor. Chairman Hensarling is expected to do so later this month. Congress should use this momentum to quickly pass the Financial CHOICE Act and sent it over to the Senate for consideration. Click here to read Heritage Action’s legislative endorsement of the Financial CHOICE Act.
Export-Import Bank: Last week, the media began suggesting President Trump would use his visit to Boeing’s factory in South Carolina to offer support for restoring the Export-Import Bank’s full authority. Despite the media swirl, there was no mention of the bank. And that is good because the Ex-Im bank is a form of corporate welfare that subsidies loans to foreign companies to buy products from politically connected U.S. companies. It doesn’t create jobs in America, which is why Heritage Action vehemently opposes the bank. For more information on this issue, click here.
Thank you for staying engaged and taking action on these important issues!
Melody Himel Clarke
Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator
Follow us on Twitter: @Heritage_Action and me, @TheRightMelody. Our hashtag is #Haction.
Town hall signs to print: (Note that these are designed to be printed on card stock and we recommend double sided!)