Seven House Republicans voted against the bill after the plan ran into resistance from conservatives this week because it would not fully repeal Obamacare.
Reconciliation bills are considered under special rules that require only a simple majority for passage, meaning the legislation cannot be filibustered in the Senate.
Conservatives have eyed the process as the best way to get around Democratic filibusters and force President Obama to veto legislation repealing his signature domestic policy achievement — a political confrontation they are eager to have.
The use of these special budget rules recently also became entangled in the debate over whether to defund embattled women’s group Planned Parenthood.
With conservatives threatening to vote against legislation to prevent a government shutdown because it would provide funds for Planned Parenthood, House GOP leaders said they could use the reconciliation process to take on the organization.
House leaders were forced to scale back the legislation in recent weeks to ensure that it conformed with parliamentary rules governing reconciliation bills. That frustrated conservatives who said they were promised a bill that would fully repeal Obamacare.
On Thursday, presidential candidates Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) joined their Senate colleague Mike Lee (R-Utah) in announcing they would oppose the legislation if it comes up in the Senate because it would not wipe Obamacare entirely off the books.
“Each of us campaigned on a promise to fully repeal Obamacare and a reconciliation bill is the best way to send such legislation to President Obama’s desk. If this bill cannot be amended so that it fully repeals Obamacare pursuant to Senate rules, we cannot support this bill,” Cruz, Rubio and Lee said in a statement Thursday.
The influential conservative group Heritage Action is calling on members to reject the bill, echoing the rationale put forward by Cruz, Rubio and Lee.
“This bill will not restore Americans’ health care freedom because it leaves the main pillars of the law in place,” Heritage said. “GOP leaders are violating an explicit promise made in the budget and walking back on their public commitment to fully repeal Obamacare.”
The debate over the legislation exposes the challenge of using a process designed to move bills reducing the deficit for other policy goals.
While reconciliation is a powerful tool, it is limited. It is only intended to address policies that have a direct impact on spending or taxes, meaning it is questionable to what degree it can be used to go after broader policies under Senate rules.