February 10 2011

A 51-Vote Strategy for Repeal?

Charlotte Hays

Karl Rove has an intriguing column today on how the GOP might-just might-be able to repeal Obamacare on a simple majority of 51 votes. It would require two things: a new president elected in 2012 and use of the reconciliation process.

The GOP will likely take the Senate in 2012, but it is unlikely to reach the magic number 60, the number of senators required to end a filibuster. That would appear to portend, as many Democrats claim, that Obamacare won't be repealed. But Rove says not so fast:

Keith Hennessey, a former White House colleague of mine, says Democrats are wrong. He argues that Republicans can repeal health-care reform with a simple Senate majority.

Director of the National Economic Council under President George W. Bush, Mr. Hennessey now teaches at Stanford Business School and is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. Last week on his website, KeithHennessey.com, he made the case that congressional Republicans could use the reconciliation process to kill ObamaCare with 51 votes in the Senate and a majority in the House of Representatives....

Will this 51-vote strategy work? One long-time GOP budget whiz, embarrassed he hadn't thought of this, told me it would. Another Republican veteran of the budget wars agreed, though she had some concerns that certain elements of ObamaCare, such as some insurance provisions, might be beyond the reach of reconciliation. For example, would reconciliation allow Republicans to kill the requirement that younger, healthier workers pay higher premiums than they rightly should to keep premiums for older workers lower?

Mr. Hennessey believes that these are "strategically unimportant" items. He says the goal should be to repeal ObamaCare's big-cost drivers, and reconciliation provides the tool to do it.

Ridding the country of the monster health care legislation the Democrats in the 111th Congress foisted upon us is the number one priority. But I hope it won't require such fancy footwork. Rove writes: "Democrats cannot complain if the GOP uses reconciliation after Democrats used it to pass ObamaCare through the Senate." You want to bet? Of course, they will complain and of course they will insist repeal using reconciliation is illegitimate.

That's why a different, less convoluted way of repealing the bill would be so much better. We want to put this thing behind us once and for all. Still repeal is what matters. The sooner it happens, the sooner we can move onto important things--like ensuring that all citizens have access to excellent health care at reasonable cost.

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