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Legislative Updates

Congress approves budget resolution, paving way for Obamacare repeal

On Jan. 13, Congress passed a Fiscal Year 2017 budget resolution (S.Con.Res. 3), introduced by Sen. Michael Enzi (R-WY), which sets budgetary spending levels for Fiscal Year 2017 through Fiscal Year 2026. In addition, it directed the Senate Finance Committee, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Committee on Ways and Means to identify at least $1 billion in savings over 10 years.

The resolution also set the stage for repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, better known as Obamacare) through the budget reconciliation process, which is used to make cuts to entitlement programs, revenues and debt limits. It also called for an end to Medicaid expansion and for defunding Planned Parenthood.

The measure establishes a Jan. 27 deadline to create a replacement blueprint.

Senate Democrats participated in a “vote-a-rama” before considering the budget resolution and introduced 140 amendments aimed at putting certain portions of the ACA and other programs off-limits. Fourteen of these amendments actually were considered; each was defeated.

Of particular note, Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN), along with 17 other Senate Democrats, offered an amendment (S.Amdt. 20) that called for creating “a budget point of order to prevent changes to Medicare that raise the eligibility age, change eligibility requirements, or privatize and voucherize the program.” NALC and other potentially affected groups urged for the amendment’s consideration, but it was prevented from being considered.

A Fiscal Year 2018 budget resolution, anticipated to be introduced in March or April, is expected to direct all House and Senate committees to find additional savings. There is also discussion of using the annual appropriations process to begin using American taxpayers’ money to pay for construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border—money that President-elect Donald Trump expects Mexico to “pay back later.”

NALC will be paying particular attention to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee when the Fiscal Year 2018 budget resolution is introduced. The committee is limited in where it can find savings, meaning it will be forced to look at cuts in federal employees’ health and retirement benefits, among other things. NALC will be actively working against any cuts.

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