Sitting in the U.S. Senate right now is a reconciliation bill, already passed by the House, which advances two major conservative priorities:
1. Repealing major portions of Obamacare
2. Re-directing Planned Parenthood’s tax funding to entities that provide real health care to women and don’t abort children & harvest their body parts
What is so special about using the reconciliation process to advance these two priorities?
The process itself is complicated, but the most important thing to know is this: Reconciliation bills cannot be filibustered.
That means we can get a reconciliation bill through the Senate with just 51 votes, instead of having to clear the usual 60-vote threshold to break a filibuster of liberal Senators.
So why hasn’t the Senate acted on this bill yet?
There are 54 Republican Senators. Three of them are not reliable pro-life votes.
That leaves no room for error on the defunding Planned Parenthood portion of the bill: We need the votes of all 51 reliable pro-life Senators.
This is where Senators Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (R-TX) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (R-FL) come in, and also Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) (R-UT).
Immediately after the House passed its reconciliation bill (thanks to the support of strong pro-life conservatives), these three Senators put out a joint statement saying the bill “isn’t good enough.” They said they would not support the bill unless it “fully repeals Obamacare pursuant to Senate rules.”
Here’s where things get a bit technical.
The content of reconciliation bills must pass muster with the Senate parliamentarian, who is a non-partisan “umpire” of sorts. The parliamentarian interprets the complex Senate rules governing the reconciliation process, and determines what can or cannot be included in the bill for it to remain “privileged” (passed by a simple majority). The parliamentarian has already ruled that the defunding Planned Parenthood language passes muster.
However, because of these rules, it may not be possible to repeal Obamacare in its entirety using reconciliation. But it is also possible that the House-passed bill can be strengthened to further dismantle and gut the oppressive law. An example would be repealing the subsidies that fuel Obamacare (and can also be used to pay for plans that cover abortion on-demand).
We are fully supportive of Senators Cruz and Rubio leading the charge to further strengthen the Obamacare repeal part of the bill, and quickly pass the strongest bill possible with 51 Republican votes.
Why is this a test of their leadership? Because this is exactly what they’ll need to do as President. Reconciliation is the best pathway to immediately dismantling Obamacare and Planned Parenthood’s tax funding should we win the White House. But in order to do it, a President Cruz or a President Rubio would need to bring together 51 Senators.
The opportunity before them is a great test run. It’s an opportunity to lead and get the job done. In doing so, they’ll show conservative and independent voters that, should either of them win the White House, we can immediately take a sledgehammer to Obamacare and Planned Parenthood’s tax funding. It shows that we can break through the gridlock and score major policy wins.
Without their leadership and support of this effort, this bill likely cannot get to 51 votes – unless the defunding Planned Parenthood provision is dropped in order to bring along Senators who are unreliable on Life. That is simply not an option. We can and must use this process to advance these two key objectives: repealing Obamacare at its core and defunding the bulk of Planned Parenthood’s tax funding. Let’s get to work.
Marjorie Dannenfelser is president of the Susan B. Anthony List.