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Reconciliation Bill Striking Obamacare May Wait Until 2016

By Melissa Attias, CQ Roll Call

December 9, 2015 --The House may wait until next year to send a budget reconciliation bill to President Barack Obama that would dismantle the 2010 health care law and cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood for one year, rather than clear the legislation this week as originally planned, several House Republicans said Wednesday.

Republican lawmakers said they're focused on advancing a fiscal 2016 omnibus spending bill and extending a number of tax breaks before turning to the package (HR 3762) that the Senate passed last week in a 52-47 vote. The thinking is that action on the reconciliation legislation so late in the session wouldn't get the attention Republicans desire.

"We're not bringing it to the floor until all this other stuff is done, and really when you finish all the other stuff there's a pretty strong argument to wait until January," said Tom Cole, R-Okla., adding that a final decision hasn't been made.

"We think it's too important to use as a placeholder or something just to spend time on. We really want to highlight it when it happens," Cole added.

A delay would create the prospect of Congress sending a bill that would dismantle Obama's signature domestic policy achievement days before he delivers his final State of the Union address, on Jan. 12. 

House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said he doubts the House will take up the package before adjourning for the year. Republicans Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania and Phil Roe of Tennessee also said they expect the House to wait to clear it until 2016.

John Fleming, R-La., said the case is also being made that waiting until 2016 would force a showdown in which Obama–who has vowed to veto the bill–would actively veto it rather than rely on a pocket veto. Ordinarily, legislation that clears Congress becomes law without a presidential signature after 10 days, but if Congress adjourns during that period, it does not become law.

"We would rather have the president actively veto it and then have to answer for it, than to pocket veto, to passively just ignore it and let it fail," Fleming said, noting the issue was brought up in the Republican Study Committee Wednesday and describing it as leadership's thinking. "We want to put it in his hands and we want to see him veto it and answer to the American people."

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