It's not like they're obsessed or anything.

Guys, the GOP needs an intervention. You see, written into their brand-new budget bill, which is mostly an outline to let the Senate write a real budget and pass it by reconciliation, with just 51 votes (yes, that again!), is language that would allow the Senate to toss a repeal of the Affordable Care Act into the budget bill, if Senate Republicans want to. And of course they want to! Repealing Obamacare and cutting taxes (for rich people only) are the only things every Republican believes in! OK, and about three quarters of them believe Barack Obama wasn't a citizen, but that's not quite as unanimous. They can't help themselves. Ask them what they think would improve health care and they'll say "Repealing Obamacare." They'll also give the same answer for "How can we balance the budget?" "What would stop mass shootings?" and "How'd The Moon Get Up There?" So it should be no surprise that the House budget outline would at least keep the possibility open. Maybe a bunch of Freedom Caucus congresspeople will mutate into Senators in the next month or six.

The Associated Press explains that the nonbinding bill passed today by the House is really just a template telling the Senate what kind of priorities would be really neat to have in a tax cut bill; while they were at it, House Republicans included language that would allow the Senate to toss in a bunch of other fun stuff, too, like killing the ACA and turning Medicare into a block-grant program. Not that the Senate will necessarily do that, but the provisions in the House's wish-list bill would make it possible for a reconciliation bill to go off in exciting new directions if the Senate wants it to:

Republicans controlling the chamber have no plans to actually implement those cuts while they pursue their tax overhaul.

Instead, the nonbinding budget’s chief purpose is to set the stage for a tax overhaul plan — likely to add $1.5 trillion or so to the deficit over the coming decade — that is the party’s top political priority as well as a longtime policy dream of key leaders like Speaker Paul Ryan.

The House budget calls for Medicaid to be slashed by about a trillion dollars over ten years, too -- again, it's just an idea, but it's in there to give the Senate flexibility to pass nearly any damn social spending cuts it wants -- as much as $5 trillion total over a decade -- via reconciliation.

The possible-but-not-certain healthcare fuckery is explained in greater detail in this Vox piece:

The Senate budget resolution directs the Finance Committee to come up with the bulk of the reconciliation bill. That committee is responsible for the tax code, so it makes sense that it would receive those instructions for a tax plan. But the finance panel also oversees huge swaths of health care, including much of the ACA, Medicare, and Medicaid [...]

[The] Finance Committee's jurisdiction is so broad that technically, Republicans could use the existing instructions to take up major parts of their most recent Obamacare repeal plan. They could call an audible, if tax reform becomes too hard or they find 50 votes for Obamacare repeal.

Cute, huh? Experts say the Rs probably won't do that, because the this bill is all about tax cuts. But they're leaving their options open. Since the instructions to the Senate specify the final bill must be written by Finance, it can't include everything that was in Graham-Cassidy, since that would have to be done by the Health committee. But Finance could to plenty of damage. Vox's Dylan Scott 'splainers further:

This is pretty standard practice -- the resolution includes a long list of provisions for which the budget chair could adjust it. It could be nothing more than Republicans trying to appease their base and their frustrated members with a fig leaf that suggests Obamacare repeal is still on the table.

Bottom line: The Senate budget could be used for Obamacare repeal without much effort. But it would require Republicans to either 1) give up on tax reform or 2) decide to do tax reform and health care together.

Given how badly the Senate's last four or 30 attempts to repeal Obamacare have gone, that seems really unlikely, especially since getting 50 Republicans to agree on a tax bill is going to be a mess all on its own. Combining that with another shot at killing the ACA seems quixotic. Thing is, this Republican Congress really loves the smell of windmills in the morning, so Rs want to keep their options open.

The same goes for the possibility of slashing Medicare, Medicaid, and other social programs to pay for a tax cut. It could definitely happen, because the House bill includes language that would allow it, but we're too early in the process of bill drafting to know what the hell the Senate will actually come up with. It doesn't hurt, of course, to assume they'll pursue tax cuts with a blind mania that makes them willing to throw granny, your sick kids, and maybe everything but the Defense budget off a cliff.

Senate Rs are gearing up for that process already, and would you believe one of their possible ideas -- brace yourself -- is yet another run at hollowing out Obamacare to pay for tax cuts? It's just a draft amendment at this point, as Topher Spiro of the Center for American Progress explains on Twitter. Not yet an actual part of budget bill, but it's out there, just waiting to be thrown on the budgetary manure pile. As one very apt reply to Spiro sums it up:

We'll keep an eye on where this nonsense goes. At this rate, prepare for Senate Republicans to support a ban on those "bump stock" devices that enabled the Las Vegas shooter to fire off hundreds of rounds, but only if the bill also repeals Obamacare.

[AP / Topher Spiro on Twitter / Vox / Image by "Just Some Dust," Creative Commons 2.0 License]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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