Politics & Policy

The Corner

Mike Lee’s Obamacare Bombshell

Last night Phil Klein had a report that is much more significant than I think a lot of people have realized:

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said on Wednesday that the Senate parliamentarian has told him that it may be possible for Republicans to push harder on repealing Obamacare’s regulations than the current House bill, which contradicts the assertion by House leadership that the legislation goes after Obamacare as aggressively as possible under Senate rules. . . .

Lee also said that the parliamentarian told him it wasn’t until very recently, after the unveiling of the House bill, that any Republican even asked her about the possibility of repealing regulations with a simple majority.

Lee’s statement was followed by, and probably contributed to, last-minute efforts by the House leadership to tweak its health-care bill to win a vote scheduled for today. But if Lee is right, then what’s called for is stopping this process and starting over.

The central defect of the bill is that it leaves too many Obamacare regulations in place. That’s why conservatives rightly say that it falls short of repealing and replacing Obamacare. It’s why it doesn’t do much to lower premiums. If it did more to reduce those premiums, it would make coverage more attractive to people and more people would get covered. Even the Congressional Budget Office, as dubious as some of its assumptions are, acknowledges this point.

House Republican leaders have asserted repeatedly that the bill is carefully designed to go as far as it can to tackle regulations while staying within Senate rules that shield it from a filibuster. The Senate parliamentarian, they said, would allow most regulatory provisions to be filibustered; if the bill had too many such provisions, Democrats could use a filibuster to keep the bill from even being taken up in the Senate. But, they added, many of the regulatory features of Obamacare that Republicans want to change could be addressed by Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price and by further legislation that would win enough Democratic support to overcome filibusters.

If Lee is right, though, none of this is true. Republicans can change or eliminate more of Obamacare’s regulations with a simple-majority vote. They don’t have to wait for a second and third stage of policy change to make needed reforms. They can write a bill that would do more to lower premiums, get a better CBO score on coverage, and do more to repeal Obamacare than their current one.

But they can’t do it on the fly. They will have to figure out just how much freedom the Senate majority has to change regulations and then what regulatory changes both make sense and can win over a majority of both chambers. They ought to take the time to do that.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

Most Popular

Film & TV

Why We Can’t Have Wakanda

SPOILERS AHEAD Black Panther is a really good movie that lives up to the hype in just about every way. Surely someone at Marvel Studios had an early doubt, reading the script and thinking: “Wait, we’re going to have hundreds of African warriors in brightly colored tribal garb, using ancient weapons, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More
Elections

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More