Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., on Tuesday unveiled his vehicle for repealing Obamacare and aims for the Senate to pass it next week.
That's the plan anyway. Repealing President Obama's signature legislative accomplishment is the GOP's top priority following the party's congressional and White House sweep on Nov. 9. Enzi has employed some legislative engineering to make sure the leadership's desire to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something else complies with Senate rules forbidding budget reconciliation bills that increase the deficit. The plan he will introduce this week will be included in the 2017 budget reconciliation bill and sets aside a lot of the savings from repeal to pay for a GOP health coverage plan that would come later.
"Today, we take the first steps to repair the nation's broken health care system, removing Washington from the equation and putting control back where it belongs: with patients, their families, and their doctors," Enzi, R-Wyo., said in a statement.
"This is the first step toward relief for Americans struggling under Obamacare. This resolution sets the stage for repeal followed by a stable transition to a better health care system," said House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. "Our goal is to ensure that patients will be in control of their health care and have greater access to quality, affordable coverage."
Voting on the bill and the amendments senators offer in the Senate would begin this week and continue into next week. Enzi and the rest of the GOP leadership aim to send the bill to House for an up or down vote without any amendments allowed.
But Enzi and other Capitol Hill leaders will have to contend with a caucus split over how best to do away with Obamacare without alienating more than 20 million Americans who depend on the law for healthcare coverage. They also must contend with Democrats determined to fight Republicans at every step of the repeal process. Enzi will need to corral support from some combination of these fractious players.
Democrats, of course, oppose the whole plan and intend to draw out the vote by demanding consideration of amendment after amendment in the Senate.
"The ACA extended health care to 30 million Americans," New York's Chuck Schumer said during his first speech as Senate Minority Leader. "We ask the president-elect: If you repeal the ACA what are you going to do to protect these 30 million people? It is not acceptable to repeal the law, throw our health care system into chaos and then leave the hard work for another day," he said.
Various Republicans pose a big threat for gumming things up too. Some members of the Freedom Caucus, the most adamant supporters of a quick repeal want all the budget savings generated by repealing Obamacare to be used for deficit reduction and want to eliminate savings set-asides that would be used for a replacement to the law.