Health Care

Planned Parenthood May Have Just Been Saved By This Obscure Senate Rule

Planned Parenthood May Have Just Been Saved By This Obscure Senate Rule

Republicans are using special procedures for the health care bill that bar Democrats from using a filibuster to kill it. Filibusters require 60 votes to end.

Healthcare activists with Planned Parenthood and the Center for American Progress protest in opposition to the Senate Republican healthcare bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 28, 2017.

Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough said that a super-majority is needed for the temporary defunding of Planned Parenthood, abortion coverage restrictions to health plans purchased with tax credits and the requirement that people with breaks in coverage wait six months before they can purchase new plans.

Yet the Senate's referee - the parliamentarian - can scratch policy changes that aren't related to the budget during a vetting process known in Capitol-speak as the "Byrd bath".

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But under those rules, provisions must have a budget-related impact and can not be driven primarily by making a policy change.

That means Republicans would either have to do the impossible and get 60 votes to keep the provisions in the bill.

Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted "The parliamentarian's decision today proves once again that the process Republicans have undertaken to repeal the ACA is a disaster". That rule requires that only matters directly pertaining to the federal budget are included. Under the statute, it is the vice president who rules. Republicans now only hold 52 of the Senate's seats. The guidance "will help inform action on the legislation going forward", said a spokesman for Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.).

State waivers for Obamacare insurance regulations such as essential health benefits. Also on the list is a provision to repeal a requirement that insurers spend a minimum amount of each premium dollar on direct medical services, rather than administration or profits.

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However, a part of the plan that replicates current law by funding the cost-sharing reimbursements through 2019 did not pass muster, so Republicans would have to find a work-around to avoid instability in the marketplace, since insurers would raise their rates to make up money they lose on low-income customers' costs.

"No amount of legislative sleight of hand will change the fact that the primary motivation here is to pursue a social agenda by targeting Planned Parenthood", the group said.

Also Friday, the parliamentarian raised the vote threshold for the "Buffalo bailout", a part of the House bill that limited New York State's ability to force counties to contribute to the Medicaid program. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had placed several states into the legislation in an effort to win support from the states' senators.

"We will challenge every one of them", Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told the Hill.

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