In the early hours of Thursday morning, Senate Republicans voted along party lines to begin the process of Obamacare repeal.

That much has been well-reported, but readers could be forgiven for not knowing quite where it leaves things now. So here's the short answer: more or less where they were on Wednesday.

Now here's the long answer:

Thursday morning's vote, while nonbinding, was a procedural first step on what will likely be a long road to repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Thanks to the filibuster, Congressional Republicans have few options for repealing Obamacare, none of them easy and all a mess. The most straightforward would be to do away with the filibuster altogether, eliminating the last roadblock between Republicans and virtually absolute control over the government.

While some in Congress have been making noises in this direction, so far party leadership appears unwilling to go down this path (presumably given how heavily the party leans on this procedural rule when it occupies the minority).

The alternative, then, is budget reconciliation. This parliamentary procedure allows purely fiscal legislation to pass on a simple majority vote and is intended to make budgeting easier. Democrats used this same rule to make changes to the ACA after its original passage.

To pass a reconciliation bill, Congress has to first issue what are called "reconciliation instructions." This procedural step is a formal request that various committees draft the necessary language for a bill, which can then come up for a vote.

On Thursday the Senate passed its reconciliation instructions, and the House is expected to follow suit on Friday.

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