Sen. Ted Cruz demonstrated that he’s still a brilliant legal scholar with a suggestion to break the deadlock Republican lawmakers are at on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.
Conservatives such as the Texas Republican believe that the House’s three-tier approach to the bill doesn’t go nearly far enough to address the concerns of Americans seeking an affordable choice for medical insurance.
And it all hinges on neither Congress nor even the White House — but rather Vice President Mike Pence, a person often overlooked.
Clip via The Hill
House Republicans chose the three-tier approach, knowing that Senate rules dispense with filibuster on matters concerning taxation or the budget under a procedure called reconciliation.
It normally takes 60 votes in the Senate to override a filibuster; reconciliation requires a mere simple majority of 51. Republicans hold 52 seats in the Senate.
With that in mind, the first tier of the House bill deals only with financial matters and is silent on those issues popular with conservatives — including tort reform and the ability to purchase insurance across state lines.
Cruz argued that as president of the Senate, Pence has the authority to overrule the Senate parliamentarian and permit what are normally thought as non-budgetary issues to be addressed.
“Under the Budget Act of 1974, which is what governs reconciliation, it is the presiding officer, the vice president of the United States, who rules on what’s permissible on reconciliation and what is not,” Cruz told reporters, according to The Hill. “That’s a conversation I’ve been having with a number of my colleagues.”
He spoke to reporters after he and his wife enjoyed dinner at the White House, but declined to say whether he brought it up to Trump, saying only that “I’ve been visiting with leaders throughout the administration.”
Cruz argued that under the 1974 law, Pence can ignore the parliamentarian’s advice on Senate rules and substitute his own interpretation on what is budgetary.
“You don’t have to override the parliamentarian or get a new parliamentarian,” Cruz said. “Under the statute, it is the vice president who rules. It is the presiding officer who makes the decision. The parliamentarian advises on that question.”
The Hill reported:
It would be difficult for Democrats to overturn Pence’s decisions. They would need to muster 60 votes to reverse him, and they only control 48 seats, including the Independents who caucus with them.
Cruz says that repealing the insurance mandate, which bars insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, and allowing people to buy plans across state lines will reduce the cost of health insurance and have a clear budgetary impact.
Medical malpractice tort reform, another idea popular with conservatives, could then also be included in the healthcare reform bill, Cruz said.
“Every one of these reforms has an enormous budgetary impact. An impact of billions of dollars if not hundreds of billions of dollars,” the Texas firebrand added.
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