Sentinel Call Notes January 23, 2017
We know it is hard to focus on accountability in the midst of the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump! But believe me, we need real accountability now more than ever! We have the House, Senate and Presidency – there are NO MORE EXCUSES to justify the continuation of a liberal agenda. Your Members of Congress and the Senate must hear from you. Remind them they promised to Drain the Swamp!
Did you already submit your Letter to the Editor calling for FULL REPEAL of Obamacare? Be sure to send me a link if it was printed. If it was not printed, submit it to a local blog so you can get it on the web now!
The House is out of session while the Senate is in session this week. The Senate will continue holding hearings this week before the inauguration to confirm President-elect Donald J. Trump’s cabinet. President-elect Trump will be sworn into office this Friday, January 20th.
The Obamacare Repeal Process Begins: Last Thursday, the Senate passed the FY 2017 “shell” budget resolution (S. CON. RES. 3) by a vote of 51 to 48 after a “vote-a-rama” on a marathon of controversial amendments intended to undermine the repeal effort. Heritage Action key voted the budget resolution since “it’s the only way to expedite the repeal of Obamacare.” On Friday, the House also passed the budget resolution, by a vote of 227 to 198, which now begins the process of budget reconciliation by setting up instructions for the House Ways and Means Committee, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, and the Senate Health & Education & Labor & Pensions Committee to write a budget reconciliation bill that fully repeals 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-elect Trump can sign into law.
Click here to read Heritage Action’s key vote “YES” on Obamacare Repeal Budget Resolution (S. CON. RES. 3).
Obamacare “Two Budget” Repeal Strategy: Since 2010, 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 year, Congress used a filibuster-proof process known as budget reconciliation to pass an Obamacare repeal bill that was ultimately vetoed by the President. But now that voters elected to keep Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress and gave Republicans the White House, Congress is using the same budget reconciliation process to successfully repeal Obamacare once and for all in a Trump administration. Chairman of the Republican Study Committee (RSC) Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) stated: “If there’s one promise that Republicans have run on for the last six years, it is that we are going to do our best to repeal Obamacare. I think that (vote) affirms our promise today.” Last week’s vote is a victory for conservatives; however, it is only the first step toward fulfilling this six-year old promise.
Congress must now write and pass a budget reconciliation bill that repeals Obamacare. Ideally, Congress should pass a one-sentence reconciliation bill that fully repeals Obamacare and sends it to President Trump’s desk soon after inauguration. 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.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report today stating that if Congress only passes H.R. 3762, millions of Americans will lose health coverage and Obamacare premiums will increase. First, this report does not take into account future health care reforms Republicans will replace Obamacare with nor does it account for the executive actions the Trump administration will take to address various issues. Second, CBO estimates on Obamacare have been dramatically wrong in the past. For example, the CBO claimed that 21 million individuals would sign up for Obamacare by 2016, but in reality only 10.4 million did, not to mention the millions of individuals who lost coverage because of Obamacare. Why should we believe CBO estimates are accurate now? Ironically, this report should encourage Congress to repeal more of Obamacare because as the report admits, partial repeal absent the insurance mandates will result in more individuals losing health insurance coverage.
Unfortunately, the legislative process is moving too slow for an Obamacare repeal bill to be on President-elect Trump’s desk on day one. Conservatives need to continue pushing for full repeal by contacting their member of Congress and by writing letters to the editor. Sentinels have already published 25 letters to the editor over the last two weeks but we must continue to beat the drum as our work is far from over. Republican leaders are debating a three-year transition instead of a two-year transition that was passed in 2015. Republicans should keep their promise to the American people by repealing Obamacare in this two-year congressional session.
Some Republicans are posturing that they may oppose Obamacare repeal unless it is replaced first or at the same time. But holding Obamacare repeal hostage for replace guarantees its defeat since Democrats will never vote to repeal Obamacare and Republicans may disagree on an enormous thousand-plus-page replacement bill. This is exactly what President Obama and Senate Democrats want Republicans to do in order to ensure Obamacare repeal never happens.
The better way forward is for Congress to fully repeal Obamacare and 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 Obamacare is fully repealed, Congress can then pass a second budget for fiscal year 2018 that lowers spending levels and achieves other conservative priorities. 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.
Click here to read vice president of research at the Heritage Foundation James Wallner’s op-ed entitled “Holding Obamacare Repeal Hostage for Replace Guarantees Its Defeat.” Click here to read a Daily Signal op-ed on the CBO Report.
Earmarks: A week after the resounding election of a President who campaigned to “drain the swamp” and end cronyism in Washington, D.C., 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.
Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham issued a statement against lifting the ban before the vote took place. 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 31 next year. Last Tuesday, Senate Republicans unanimously voted to keep the earmark ban in place for the 115th Congress. While this is a step in the right direction, conservatives must continue to hold the line on earmarks and be prepared to fight for its defeat in the House this year. Sentinels are urged to encourage their congressmen to support the current ban on earmarks.
Click here to read Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham’s full statement on preserving the earmark ban.
Godspeed in your work to hold Congress accountable during this very important time!
Melody Himel Clarke
Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator
Follow us on Twitter: @Heritage_Action and me, @TheRightMelody. Our hashtag is #Haction.