House held back ObamaCare repeal bill for potential second vote

Greg Nash

House Republicans have not yet sent their ObamaCare replacement bill to the Senate due to the possibility that the House could have to vote on it again if it fails to meet certain budget rules.

The House, despite passing the repeal bill two weeks ago, is waiting to send the legislation to the Senate until the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) produces its analysis of the bill.

There is at least some possibility that the new CBO score of the revised bill would find that the measure no longer reduces the deficit, meaning that it does not meet Senate rules governing the reconciliation process, which Republicans are using to avoid a Democratic filibuster. The House would then have to change its bill and vote again.

{mosads}“The bill is just being held until CBO issues its final score,” said AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

The bill being held back in the House was first reported by Bloomberg.

House Republicans say they are confident the bill will hit the deficit reduction target but are holding it out of an “abundance of caution.”

House Republicans voted on the bill earlier this month without waiting for the updated CBO score, a move that was criticized by Democrats.

The updated score is expected early next week.

The CBO score of an earlier version of the bill found that it would reduce the deficit by $150 billion over 10 years, giving Republicans a considerable cushion.

The updated bill, though, includes an amendment allowing states to waive ObamaCare rules governing what insurance plans must cover.

Without those rules, more people could sign up for plans that are cheaper and less generous, drawing down more federal tax credits and costing more money. An analysis from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) found that if 6.5 million more people sign up, the bill would no longer reduce the deficit.

Ed Lorenzen, a CRFB expert, wrote in an email that it is “probably unlikely” that the updated bill would not reduce the deficit.

He raised another issue to watch, though, which is that the measure also needs to achieve $1 billion in deficit reduction in the jurisdiction of the Senate Health Committee, which he said could be a close call, depending on a number of factors. It is possible the Senate could fix that issue, but it is possible the House would have to, he said.

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