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FEDERAL | Senate Takes First Step in ACA Repeal

Both the House and the Senate passed the fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget resolution that serve a key role in developing the eventual legislative vehicle for repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Without the passage of this budget, Republicans could not use special budget rules, called reconciliation, to approve repeal bills with a simple majority. The budget resolution also contains instructions to committees in both chambers to begin drafting ACA repeal legislation.

Late-night passage of the budget resolution followed more than six hours of debate, during which Democrats forced mostly symbolic votes on more than 19 amendments - none of which were successfully added to the resolution. Amendments included attempts to prevent changes to Medicare and Medicaid, to reduce the number of private health insurance enrollees, mental health legislation and women's access to health care.

The Senate adopted the measure (S.Con.Res. 3) on a 51-48 vote, with votes in opposition from all Democrats. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was the only Republican to vote against the measure, which he did not support because it adds $9.5 trillion to the federal deficit and does not balance the budget over the decade-long budgetary window.

The budget resolution was agreed to by the House of Representatives by a vote of 227-198. Nine Republicans joined all Democrats in opposition to the measure including Justin Amash (R-MI-3), Charlie Dent (R-PA-15), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-8), Walter Jones (R-NC-3), John Katko (R-NY-24), Raul Labrador (R-ID-1), Tom MacArthur (R-NJ-3), Thomas Massie (R-KY-4) and Tom McClintock (R-CA-4). Some of the dissent stemmed from concerns over rising fiscal deficits, while other members were not in favor of taking steps to repeal the ACA without details on a replacement plan.

The budget resolution is a non-binding legislative measure that outlines congressional budget priorities. It requires only a simple majority to pass the Senate and does not require the signature of the president. While the passage of this budget allows Republicans to move forward with repeal, President Trump has stated that he does not intend to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement plan.