Senate Republicans have reportedly inserted a provision to defund Planned Parenthood into their repeal of the previous administration's Affordable Care Act, commonly called "Obamacare." After GOP lawmakers' two original repeal plans failed to garner enough votes, they have pivoted to a so-called "skinny repeal."
On July 25, Senate Republicans voted to begin debate on their replacement plan for the ACA. Since then, their two first options for repeal were rejected. The Senate Majority Leader, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, was unable to corral enough GOP votes to pass the Better Care Reconciliation Act, the conservative replacement for the ACA. The chamber was also unable to pass a repeal-only bill that would have delayed uprooting the ACA by two years.
On July 27, Senate Republicans set their sights on passing a skinny repeal, or a more modest repeal-only bill. Neither Congress nor the public have seen the full contents of the skinny repeal bill, but congressional aides and lobbyists have asserted that it contains a repeal of the ACA's individual and employer mandates to purchase health insurance and a provision to defund Planned Parenthood, The Hill reports.
On July 26, the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis of how repealing both the individual and employer mandates would impact the insurance market. The CBO score estimated that repealing the mandates would result in 16 million fewer Americans having health insurance by 2026 and a rise in premium costs, according to The Washington Post.
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McConnell had set a July 27 vote for a skinny repeal. That morning, GOP leadership was still hashing out the contents of the repeal, meaning that its specifics have been difficult to report. One GOP aide asserted that the bill would defund Planned Parenthood for a year and suspend the ACA's medical device tax for up to six years, according to the Washington Examiner.
Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state blasted McConnell's strategy on the Senate floor.
"It appears that the Republican leader has a last-ditch plan waiting in the wings," Murray said, according to CNN. "As soon as they have an official score from the CBO, which could be hours from now, in the dead of night, Sen. McConnell will bring forward legislation that Democrats, patients and families, and even many Senate Republicans, have not seen and try to pass it before anyone can so much as blink."
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Planned Parenthood executive vice president Dawn Laguens also blasted reports that the skinny repeal would defund the health care provider.
"The cruel irony is that Republicans are selling the skinny repeal as giving individuals more choice and freedom, while the Planned Parenthood provision would deny women the choice or freedom to go to the provider they trust," Laguens said in a statement.
GOP lawmakers have reportedly tried to offset the impact of defunding Planned Parenthood by increasing federal funding for community health centers.
McConnell and his colleagues are attempting to repeal portions of the ACA through budget reconciliation, which only requires 50 votes. The Senate Parliamentarian had previously ruled that Planned Parenthood could not be defunded through budget reconciliation, according to Mother Jones.
Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee asserted that the skinny bill is not meant to be the final legislation. The current Republican strategy is to pass the skinny repeal and have it go to conference, where Senate and House Republicans would negotiate a fully formed bill.
"I think that most people would understand that what we're really voting on is trying to keep the conversation alive," Corker told NPR. "It's not the policy itself... it's about trying to create a bigger discussion about repeal between the House and Senate."
It remains unclear whether the skinny repeal could even go into conference instead of simply passing to the House for a final vote. If that were to occur, House Republicans would decide whether the bill would be sent to President Donald Trump's desk.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina warned that he would not vote for the skinny repeal without assurances that it would go to conference instead of the House.
"If you passed it as a standalone proposition, it would destroy the insurance markets and we would own the failure of Obamacare," Graham said.