Capitol Hill was a scene rife with a muted pomp and circumstance as Democrats and Republicans jockeyed for position in the court of public opinion ahead of Donald Trump's Inauguration in the coming weeks.
The issue on the table for Americans to marinate over is part of the GOP's 7-year fight and the President-elect's campaign promise: repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act aka "Obamacare" with something that doesn't grow the size of government: "Trumpcare."
Flanked by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on the House side and later by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other ranking Republicans on the Senate side, Vice President-elect Mike Pence made a case for repealing Obamacare.
Productive meeting w/ @SenateGOP. Working together we will repeal/replace Obamacare & put Americans back in charge of their healthcare. pic.twitter.com/Qv5wHq9irS"The first order of business is to repeal and replace Obamacare," Pence said, adding that Americans "voted decisively for a better future for health care in this country, and we are determined to give them that," citing a quote from Los Angeles Daily News.
— Mike Pence (@mike_pence) January 4, 2017
Not only was it a bit crazy for the meetings to be going on all at once and lawmakers finger pointing at every moment, but politicians did their best to brand, rebrand, and put the burden on the opposing party to make the case to America about a viable healthcare plan.
President Obama met behind closed doors with ranking Democrats and issued a mandate to stay the course and not cower to pressure. Obama implored his party not to succumb and rescue Republicans on "Trumpcare," as KTLA 5 wrote. His stance is that 20 million Americans will punish the GOP at the polls should they repeal -- by all rights -- his legacy.
Later, incoming Minority Leader Chuck Schumer addressed the media over the GOP's planned Trumpcare bid and modified Donald Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again." During a televised news conference, the New York lawmaker warned the public and his colleagues that any efforts to appeal the ACA would "make America sick again." Schumer believes the result will not only inadvertently punish Americans with pre-existing conditions; its revocation will send insurers in the marketplace in a spiral.
The GOP's first move this Congress will be a full-scale assault on the three pillars of our health care system: Medicare, Medicaid & the ACA pic.twitter.com/WzaoLMN2jwEarlier, Republicans said Trumpcare will take a number of years to implement, and any replacement will be deliberate. In a conversation with Politico, Schumer countered.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) January 4, 2017
"Less health care and it will cost more. And it will create chaos. Because you cannot repeal a plan and put nothing in its place. It doesn't matter if you say the repeal won't take place for a year or two years."Recall that Republicans made the unambiguous pledge to rid Americans of a mandated and government-controlled healthcare system. The partisan consensus is that it has resulted in a paradox; opponents say it has harmed the audience it was intending to help. Critics also said the costs are exorbitant and the plan has largely plummeted under its own weight.
.@replouiegohmert: Chuck Schumer wants Mr. Trump to get off Twitter because he wants the public to only hear the New York Times pic.twitter.com/cD4OdyQTBdHere's how the Senate, namely the GOP, intends to repeal and replace Obamacare with Trumpcare. Opponents of the ACA began the first step on Tuesday, which is budget reconciliation.
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) January 4, 2017
Although it is not the way lawmakers pass laws, it begins a process of considering spending goals over several years and offers insight on how to reach those targets. In this case, the focus is killing off whole or partial provisions of Obama's healthcare reform.
Restraints are in place to prevent Republicans from having a free-for-all in gutting entire swaths of Obamacare. However, it forces them to take a closer look at provisions that can positively or negatively impact the federal government's budget.
Here is where it gets interesting -- and advantageous for the GOP, according to Vox. No pun intended, but it seems Republicans have a "trump" card that can lessen the strain of scrubbing the controversial ACA.
"Legislation passed through the budget reconciliation process cannot be filibustered. So instead of coming up with a 60-vote majority, Republicans only need 51 votes to pass a reconciliation bill for repeal."In 1974, Congress adopted the Congressional Budget Act. It requires lawmakers to first pass a budget resolution before they can have a reconciliation process. Think of the resolution as guidance for future spending.
In short, the House and Senate Budget committees can adopt measures that compel lawmakers to agree on spending measures. In this case, Obamacare will likely be targeted to appropriate money to targeted spending areas.
Bear in mind that the process likely to play out in the coming weeks is only geared towards adopting a resolution. Finding the 51 votes needed to repeal the ACA and replace it with Trumpcare is another hurdle a majority House and Senate faces.
[Featured Image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]