Nuclear Option: Obamacare Repeal More Likely After 2016 Election?

Patrick Frye - Author
By

Dec. 19 2013, Updated 5:06 p.m. ET

Now that the Democrats have invoked the nuclear option, it may come back to haunt them in the not too distant future. If there is a Republican president after the 2016 Presidential elections, we may see an Obamacare repeal that will do away entirely with the long term implementation of the Affordable Care Act

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Filibusters have a long history in the United States Congress. The idea is that the minority party be given the opportunity to speak without end to delay or prevent a vote on important issues. This is typically done so more negotiations can take place, but sometimes a filibuster is done to prevent any action at all. Normally 60 votes are required to end a filibuster so congressional gridlock is unavoidable. Invoking the nuclear option also means a simple majority vote can change Senate rules instead of the standard two-thirds, or 67, vote normally required.

This was not the first time the nuclear option has been threatened. Back in 2005, when Bush was President and Republicans held a Senate majority, Majority Leader Bill Frist threatened to change filibuster rules on then-minority Democrats who were holding up the choosing of judicial nominees.

So, it’s with some irony that Democrats shoved the nuclear option through on the basis of Republicans holding up Obama’s judicial nominees. And the worse part is that judicial nominees under Obama have actually fared better than under George W. Bush (who is more popular now, by the way). Even Harry Reid admits, “I can say from experience that no one’s hands are entirely clean on this issue.”

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Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has already told Democrats they may regret using the nuclear option for the first time in over 200 years:

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“Some of us have been around here long enough to know that sometimes the shoe is on the other foot, you may regret this a lot sooner than you think.”

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Reports already describe Republicans as being “practically giddy about the prospect of a Republican Senate forcing a vote to repeal Obamacare by a simple majority vote by changing the rules, and shutting out a Democratic attempt to use the filibuster to halt such an effort.” Before the 2014 election, Congress Democrats will control 53 seats in the Senate, with the Republicans controlling 45 and Independents holding two seats. Republicans are only six seats away from controlling the Senate due to the nuclear option.

The numbers surrounding the issues will also cause trouble for Democrats in upcoming 2014 election. Any Congressperson up for re-election in 2014 who has favored Obamacare in the past has a 37 percent chance of being opposed, compared to 21 percent odds of being supported.

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But even with the nuclear option, an Obamacare repeal won’t happen with President Obama still firmly in place. Even if Republicans were to pass a bill repealing the Affordable Care Act in both the House and the Senate, Obama is likely to veto it. So any Obamacare repeal will have to wait until after the 2016 Presidential elections at the earliest.

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