Republicans say the 2016 elections gave them a mandate to roll back the health care law. "The Obamacare bridge is collapsing, and we're sending in a rescue team," said Senator Michael B. Enzi, Republican of Wyoming and the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. "Then we'll build new bridges to better health care, and finally, when these new bridges are finished, we'll close the old bridge."
Senate Republicans did not vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act overnight, but they did take the first important step down that road. If you're wondering what's at the end of that road, you're not alone.Following the so-called "vote-a-rama," in which senators considered a series of amendments in rapid secession, the chamber voted 51 to 48* in support of something called a budget resolution. How does this affect "Obamacare"? Substantively, it doesn't. Last night's vote was largely about process: the Senate got the ball rolling on giving itself the ability to use reconciliation to repeal key parts of the ACA with 50 votes instead of 60.The bill now heads to the Republican-led House, which will almost certainly approve it tomorrow. Because it's a legislative blueprint, the bill does not go to the White House for a signature. (This is effectively an outline Congress is creating for itself.)Of course, for the GOP, this was the easy part. The party still has no health care blueprint, despite seven years of effort, and Republicans remain divided over their legislative strategy. In an instantly memorable line, Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) said overnight, "We're loading a gun here. I want to know where it's pointed before we start the process."But at least for now, most Republicans are content to worry about where the bullet will end up later.
Congratulations, America. You've elected a Congress that actually has a bridge it wants to sell you.As for the idea that Republicans are launching some kind of "rescue" mission -- a popular talking point among GOP officials this week -- it's exceedingly difficult to take the rhetoric seriously. Indeed, Republicans are burdened by a mixed message of sorts: while they insist they need to "rescue" the country from the scourge of "Obamacare," GOP lawmakers immediately follow the argument by reassuring Americans that Republicans have no intention of taking away the terrific health security they currently enjoy thanks to the ACA.The latter half of that sentence seems to contradict the former, but it's a staple of Republican talking points right now.* The roll call on the Senate vote is online here. Note that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was the only Republican to break ranks, siding with the Democratic minority. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who's recovering from a medical procedure, did not vote.