Issues / Legislation » Legislative Weekly Reports

Week Ending January 9, 2017

Congress Passes Budget to Tee up Repeal of Obamacare – Replacement Plan TBD

On Thursday night the Senate voted 51-48 to pass an FY 2017 budget resolution.  On Friday, the House passed an identical budget 227-198. The budget itself is non-binding on current law and does not need to be signed by the President.  Its main effect is to clear a path to make it easier for the Congress to repeal the core elements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) under a process called “reconciliation.”

Under the reconciliation process, Senate Democrats will be unable to use a filibuster to block repeal.  Instead, a simple majority in the House and Senate will be able to repeal elements of the ACA, including the Medicaid expansion and tax credits to purchase insurance that have provided more than 20 million Americans with health coverage. The health security of millions of Americans could be upended unless a few Republican Senators cross the aisle to stop the repeal of the ACA.

During the Senate debate on the budget nearly 200 amendments were introduced but only 24 were voted upon.  All amendments were rejected mostly on procedural grounds.  The significance of these votes was to identify Senators who might be willing to part from GOP leaders over changes to health care that could result from the repeal of the ACA as well as changes that Republican leaders hope to advance in Medicaid, Medicare and even Social Security.

For example, an amendment offered by Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) against cuts to Medicare and Medicaid was supported by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Dean Heller (R-NV), along with every Democratic Senator.  Similarly, Republican Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Susan Collins, Dean Heller (NV) and Rob Portman (OH) joined all Democrats in supporting an amendment offered by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to protect rural hospitals and health care providers from changes in these health care programs.

Sen. Collins also crossed the aisle to support an amendment offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  Ultimately these Republican Senators voted for the Republican budget resolution but the enduring impact of their positions remains to be seen.  (Linda Bennett- lbennett@afscme.org)

This Sunday, January 15th, Democratic Senators and Representatives are holding rallies across the country in support of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid.  Click here to  find an event near you.

Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)

This week the Senate Judiciary Committee held a two-day hearing to examine the record of Sen. Sessions, nominated by President-elect Trump to serve as Attorney General of the United States.  Witnesses testifying both for and against Sessions’ nomination explored his civil rights record and whether he could be trusted to protect civil and voting rights as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), an iconic civil rights leader, testified against Sessions as did Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.  In addition, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) broke with Senate tradition by testifying against the nomination of another Senator.  All three questioned Sessions’ ability to defend the rights of all Americans regardless of gender, race, religion and sexual orientation.  Two decades ago and prior to winning election to the Senate, Sessions’ nomination for a federal judgeship was rejected over allegations of racist remarks.

AFSCME has joined with civil rights advocates to oppose this nomination.  (Katie Smith- ksmith@afscme.org)

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