The House is scheduled to kick off 2016 this week by voting on a bill that would cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, repeal major aspects of Obamacare and start a veto fight with President Obama.
House leaders plan to vote Wednesday on Senate-passed legislation that would allow Republicans to make good on a long-standing promise to try to eliminate the Affordable Care Act ahead of the election in November. The timing of the vote means the repeal bill will likely be sent to the White House just days before Obama is scheduled to deliver his final State of the Union address.
The combative start sets the tone for a year during which House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wisc.) hopes to move an ambitious list of conservative policies, including introducing a Republican alternative to Obama’s signature health care law.
Republican members celebrated the opportunity to force Obama to veto legislation targeting the health care law that passed both the House and the Senate.
“If the president didn’t hear the people’s voices earlier, hopefully, he will through this bill,” Rep. Vicky Hartzler, (R-Mo.) said Saturday in a weekly Republican address. “We owe it to the American people to take our best shot at repealing Obamacare, and that’s what we’ll do next week.”
But the vote may also be one of Ryan’s only chances to send a major Republican policy bill to Obama’s desk before he leaves office.
The repeal bill is being moved through the budget reconciliation process, which requires only a simple majority of 51 votes to pass the Senate. Even with that lower bar, the legislation barely passed the Senate in a vote of 52-47 in December and Democrats in that chamber are expected to block any future attempts by Republicans to pick veto fights with the president over major policy issues.
“We used the one tool we could use to avoid a filibuster and advance this,” Ryan said in an interview last month with conservative radio host Bill Bennett. “You can use this bill once a year, and we used it for this.”
The legislation would reduce the deficit by more than $317 billion over 10 years using traditional scoring methods, according to a recent estimate from the Congressional Budget Office.
Republican leaders plan to attempt to override Obama’s veto but such a vote would require the support of two-thirds of the House and Democrats easily hold enough seats to prevent that vote from being successful.
“Once again, Republicans are wasting time on a radical bill that will never become law – as Republicans celebrate their 62nd vote to dismantle the Affordable Care Act,” said Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Despite Ryan’s vision for 2016, there’s little appetite among Senate Republicans to take on an aggressive agenda this year as they look to protect moderate GOP members facing tough re-election fights. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tamped down expectations for a year of votes on bold Republican policy proposals in an interview with the Washington Post last month.
“I’d be surprised,” he said.
That leaves Ryan in a potentially difficult position of having to convince his House members to be satisfied with moving legislation that may not be taken up by the Senate and has very little chance of ever becoming law this year. But like his predecessor former House Speaker John Bohener (R-Ohio), he will likely have to manage calls from rank-and-file members to attach issues like addressing Planned Parenthood and repealing Obamacare to legislation the president needs to sign into law, such as the annual spending bills.
Rather than take that route, aides said Ryan plans to continue working with House Republicans on a long-term policy plan, which includes moving forward with a select committee established by Boehner to investigate potential wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. The women’s group has been targeted by conservatives since the summer when antiabortion activists first released undercover videos depicting some of the group’s executives discussing its handling of tissue harvested from aborted fetuses for research. The groups has denied any wrongdoing.
Ryan will also work with committee chairs and members to draft an Obamacare alternative later this year. Aides said no specific timeline has been established for either effort but members are expected to discuss their year-long vision during a GOP retreat next week in Baltimore.