Using Reconciliation For an Obamacare Subsidy “Fix”

If before today someone asked me why Republicans might prefer to sneak something through Congress preserving, albeit temporarily and perhaps with outrageous conditions, the Obamacare subsidies before the Supreme Court acts, I’d have probably said they want to avoid dealing with this after a potentially explosive decision, when conservative activists are deliriously snake-dancing through the streets at this blow to the greatest act of tyranny the world has ever known etc. etc.

But Greg Sargent has another explanation that he’s harvested from a Washington Examiner report:

Republicans are worried that, if they do offer a plan to provide millions with subsidies after the Court kills them, it will be scored by the Congressional Budget Office as hefty new government spending as measured against post-SCOTUS-ruling current law (under which the subsidies from Obamacare would no longer exist).

So Republicans might use the budget tactic known as “reconciliation” to pass a patch to the subsidies before any Court ruling, because that would not be scored as additional spending as against current law.

Greg isn’t sure what the scope of such a reconciliation bill might be, though it occurs to me that the argument such bills must be relevant to spending and revenue issues or risk a point of order could provide a convenient excuse for dropping provisions–such as elimination of the individual mandate–that conservatives may otherwise insist upon but that would operate as poison pills. Keep in mind that Obama would have to sign any reconciliation bill for it to take effect, even though it would be protected from any Democratic filibuster in the Senate.

The other problem for Republicans, of course, is the early timetable for passing a fix means an early and solid consensus for getting it done, which probably also means an enforceable promise to conservatives that a “replacement” bill will be in the wings. Good luck on that one, Republicans.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.