Lawmakers have left Washington for the start of their July 4 holiday recess without releasing an updated draft of Senate Republicans’ Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA) (TAXDAY, 2017/06/23, C.1). The measure would repeal and replace, in part, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) and related taxes. An updated draft was expected to surface by some accounts before lawmakers left town, but the same intraparty disagreement that forced the Senate bill to be pulled from a floor vote seems to remain a factor within ongoing Republican discussions (TAXDAY, 2017/06/28, C.1).
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s, R-Ky., communications director, David Popp, told Wolters Kluwer, however, that McConnell had never imposed the widely talked about June 30 deadline circulating around Capitol Hill. According to Popp, there is no delay in releasing an updated draft of the BCRA, and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is involved in ongoing discussions.
“Discussions continue within the Conference. Discussions continue with CBO. There is no delay. Work continues,” Popp told Wolters Kluwer on June 30. Republican leadership aides have said such discussions will continue over the recess period.
Senate Finance Committee (SFC) ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., however, is asking SFC Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, to hold full committee hearings on the BCRA before scheduling a floor vote. “While Senate Republicans continue their negotiations on the BCRA behind closed doors, I ask for the legislation to be considered in hearings by the Senate Finance Committee and under regular order on the Senate floor,” Wyden wrote in a June 29 letter to Hatch. “The Senate has not held a single public hearing on the BCRA to date,” he added.
Democrats have been urging Republicans to include them in discussions on how to improve the ACA (TAXDAY, 2017/06/29, W.1). Republicans have responded to such requests by saying Democrats are not “serious” about working with them because they refuse to do so unless “repeal” s taken off of the table.
Nevertheless, both sides of the aisle have said in the past that bipartisan reforms are always ideal. “Senate Finance Committee Democrats share your view that the Senate functions best when it follows a “robust” deliberative process—for that very reason, we believe it is critical that we follow the Senate’s rigorous process in developing significant health care legislation,” Wyden wrote to Hatch.
Meanwhile, a group of 10 Republican senators are asking McConnell to cancel or, at least, shorten the scheduled August recess, which will begin three weeks after lawmakers return on July 11 from the July 4 holiday recess. The senators, led by Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., sent McConnell a June 30 letter expressing concerns there may not be a sufficient number of legislative business days to accomplish the health care and tax code overhauls.
“Our current Senate calendar shows only 33 potential working days remaining before the end of the fiscal year. This does not appear to give us enough time to adequately address the issues that demand immediate attention,” the senators wrote.
By Jessica Jeane, Wolters Kluwer News Staff
Letter from Sen. Wyden to Sen. Hatch Regarding BCRA Hearings Request
Letter to Sen. McConnell Regarding August Recess