“Given the disastrous experience with Obamacare this will place accountability where it belongs, with the president,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas).
The strategy for leaders in both the House and the Senate has been to allow conservatives to vent their frustration with Obama through the reconciliation bill, which cannot be filibustered and requires only 51 votes for passage.
The hope is that members will be satisfied with the vote and abandon any plans to try to defund Planned Parenthood or target Obamacare in the omnibus spending bill that must pass by Dec. 11.
“We told people that we would use reconciliation because it didn’t require 60 votes, it required 51 votes, to do what we could to defund Planned Parenthood,” Cornyn said. “That’s what we’re going to follow through on.”
Senate Republicans met Monday night to round up votes for the package and settle on a list of amendments. Members can offer an unlimited number of back-to-back amendments to a reconciliation bill. The vote-a-rama process could make the package even more palatable for some conservatives who are angry the package does not fully repeal Obamacare.
Presidential candidates Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), joined with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in threatening to vote against the bill because it does not fully repeal Obamacare.
The current repeal bill was carefully structured to conform to Senate rules. Reconciliation bills can only address policies that have a direct budgetary impact, which excludes some key policy aspects of Obamacare. But Cruz, Rubio and other members will have the chance to offer amendments that go beyond the scope of the current bill.
Lee said Monday that the new agreement on reconciliation looked good.
“I’m very encouraged,” he said after the meeting.
Leaders have been working for weeks to adjust the bill to ensure that there would be enough Republican votes to pass the repeal. The Planned Parenthood language is expected to be a turnoff for vulnerable moderates like Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) who are up for reelection in 2016.
It’s unclear whether the recent shootings at a Planned Parenthood office in Colorado Springs will have any impact on the consideration of the reconciliation bill.