In a recent deft maneuver, Sen. Mike Lee used Senate procedure to derail the highway funding bill in an effort to repeal Obamacare. This inspired Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell to publicly commit to using the budget process to send a repeal of the Affordable Care Act to the president’s desk.
Lee’s attempt to achieve a simple majority vote on Obamacare repeal as part of the highway bill put McConnell in a tight spot, because such an amendment would effectively kill the bill, and the authorization of the Export-Import Bank with it. Using this leverage, Lee managed to achieve an even better outcome, provided that leadership actually follows through on their promises.
The use of budget reconciliation to repeal Obamacare involves passing a new bill that makes spending numbers conform to the budget resolutions passed by both chambers of Congress earlier this year. Such a bill can include language to effectively repeal most of the Affordable Care Act. Most importantly, the bill would only need a bare, 51-vote majority to pass the Senate. Republicans currently control 54 Senate seats, and there are more than enough conservatives in the House to push through the repeal language. If a vote is held and any Senate Republicans flip, they know that they will be pilloried in their home states for their defections.