Sen. Ted Cruz and some of the other conservative Republicans in Congress believe that the proposed Obamacare bill doesn’t go far enough and doesn’t address key issues.
So he’s asking Vice President Mike Pence to employ his powers to expand it.
From The Hill:
Cruz, who had dinner with President Trump on Wednesday evening, says that Pence, who by virtue of his office also serves as president of the Senate, should be prepared to overrule the chamber’s parliamentarian to bulk up the controversial measure.
House Republicans left several reforms popular with conservatives out of their healthcare bill because the parliamentarian is likely to rule them outside the scope of special rules in the upper chamber that prevent a Democratic filibuster.
Republicans are employing the reconciliation process to get around a filibuster.
Republicans control only 52 seats in the Senate, where most controversial legislation needs 60 votes to overcome filibusters by the minority party.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plans to circumvent the 60-vote threshold and pass the healthcare measure by using the budget reconciliation process.
But only legislation that has more than an incidental impact on federal spending or revenue can be protected from filibusters.
But Cruz notes that it’s not really the parliamentarian’s ultimate decision.
Cruz argues that Pence, as the person likely to preside over the chamber at the most important moments of the healthcare debate, can decide what is and what isn’t eligible for the so-called reconciliation process. He says the Senate parliamentarian’s role is to advise, not to rule.
“Under the Budget Act of 1974, which is what governs reconciliation, it is the presiding officer, the vice president of the United States, who rules on what’s permissible on reconciliation and what is not,” Cruz told reporters Thursday. “That’s a conversation I’ve been having with a number of my colleagues.”
Democrats would be unable to fight whatever Pence’s decision was since they would need 60 to reverse him and they only have 48 votes.
If they were to do this, then they could add in concerns conservatives have been pushing.
Cruz says that repealing the insurance mandate, which bars insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, and allowing people to buy plans across state lines will reduce the cost of health insurance and have a clear budgetary impact.
Medical malpractice tort reform, another idea popular with conservatives, could then also be included in the healthcare reform bill, Cruz said.
It’s an interesting idea that risks changing the rules of how things work.
It remains to be seen if it can be done.
But it sounds like it could vastly improve what they presently have on the table.