Now that the House has voted to repeal Obamacare, what happens next with H.R. 6079?
The “Repeal of ObamaCare Act” will go to the Senate for consideration. If Senators take a few simple actions, they can force a debate and recorded vote in the Senate this year. They might even be able to pass it, although unlikely because of the minority party’s aversion to hardball politics.
How to get it to the floor: Once the Senate receives the “Repeal of ObamaCare Act” from the House of Representatives, it is expected that a conservative Senator will use the Senate’s rules to force a vote. A Senator can use Rule 14 of the Senate’s rules to object to a second reading of the bill. This objection would place the House-passed Obamacare repeal bill in a position for debate on a motion to proceed to the bill and a roll-call vote on whether the Senate should consider the measure.
If conservatives fumble the ball and no Senator objects to the second reading, then conservatives will have lost an opportunity for a vote. Failure to object using the Senate’s rules sends the bill to the black hole of a Senate Committee controlled by liberals. The repeal of Obamacare legislation would not be heard from again this Congress.
How long it would take: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–KY) or any other member of the Republican caucus can lodge an objection to the second reading of the bill that will start a two-day process to get the legislation on the Senate calendar. Once on the Senate calendar, the legislation can be considered at any point during the duration of this Congress.
Once on the Senate calendar, any Senator can start the debate and trigger a recorded vote. All that Senator would need is to gather up 16 Senate signatures on a cloture petition pursuant to Rule 22 to commence a debate. The Senator then would take his cloture petition and file it with the clerk of the Senate. The filing of “cloture” would commence a debate and vote.
How the left could block it: The only way for liberals to block consideration of the bill would be to table the bill or filibuster it.
What’s needed to pass it: Now, if four Democrats defect and sign on to the idea of a full repeal of Obamacare, all of a sudden there are enough votes to pass the bill. If the supporters of H.R. 6079 can get to a simple majority of support, the only way liberals could prevent passage of the bill by a simple majority would be to engage in a filibuster of the bill. Yes, the same party that has harped on the idea of “filibuster reform” would be forced into a filibuster to prevent the “Repeal of ObamaCare Act” from passing.
Under this scenario, there are two hardball tactics that can be used to repeal Obamacare. First would be to shame the filibuster-hating liberals into standing down and allowing an up-or-down vote on the bill. Nothing prevents conservatives from keeping the Senate on this bill if they have majority support until liberals relent. They have the power under the rules to file cloture over and over again until they shame liberals into allowing a majority of the Senate to pass the bill.
Another hardball tactic that could be used would be to put the language of this full repeal of Obamacare on a must-pass bill. The federal government will need to pass an appropriations measure before September 1 to fund the government this fall. A steadfast and resolute House could attach the “Repeal of ObamaCare Act” to a continuing resolution to fund the federal government and dare the liberals in the Senate to cause a government shutdown over Obamacare.
Any way you slice it, conservative Senators have the power, at a minimum, to force a vote. It is possible and not very difficult under the Senate’s rules.