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Budget Chairman Confirms Reconciliation Will Wait Until September

By Paul M. Krawzak, CQ Roll Call

July 15, 2015 -- House Budget Chairman Tom Price confirmed last week the Budget Committee will not act on reconciliation legislation until after the August recess. He added that House Republicans are still debating what to include.

"What we were told in Budget was leadership did not anticipate doing anything on reconciliation at the Budget committee level until after the break," the Georgia Republican said after speaking at the American Action Network, a right leaning non-profit advocacy organization.

The three authorizing committees in the House and two in the Senate charged with writing reconciliation legislation are not expected to report their proposals to the Budget committees until September at the earliest, missing the July 24 deadline in the fiscal 2016 budget resolution (S Con Res 11).

Reconciliation is an expedited process allowing legislation to be passed in the Senate with a simple majority, bypassing the usual 60-vote requirement for a bill to be considered. But its use is constrained by sometimes complicated rules that are interpreted by the Senate parliamentarian, including a prohibition against "extraneous" matter such as provisions that would not result in a change in revenue or spending.

Price noted that missing the deadline does not prevent moving reconciliation legislation. The deadline "is an internal deadline and it's not hard and fast," he said. "It doesn't preclude anything."

He said House GOP leaders "clearly think that it's better from a policy standpoint to push this off."

"We'll do reconciliation," Price said. "The question is what should the package include." Some House Republicans would prefer to use reconciliation for something other than repeal of the health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152), since it is almost certain that President Barack Obama would veto a repeal and Republicans would be unable to override the veto in the narrowly divided Senate.

The focus of reconciliation is still a partial repeal of the health care law, according to lawmakers. But other approaches are being advocated including changes to welfare programs.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said last week that Senate Republicans are considering using budget reconciliation "for repealing as much of Obamacare as is reconcilable" but he gave no timeline for action.

Price said much of the pressure to use reconciliation for health care law repeal is coming from the Senate. The original House budget resolution envisioned a broader reconciliation effort touching on non-health-care related programs as well, but the House narrowed its reach in conference negotiations with the Senate.

"I think that one of the big drivers for using reconciliation for Obamacare or the ACA has tended to be the desire in the Senate to have Senate Republicans be able to have an opportunity to be on record in how they stand on the ACA or Obamacare," he said, referring to the title of the law, the Affordable Care Act. "This is a dynamic process and so times change. The situation changes even not just from month to month but from day to day."

Price said Budget Committee Republicans are kicking off an effort to build a coalition among members of the public to overhaul federal programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which he said will run out of money at projected growth rates. "Our goal is to restore the trust for all generations by motivating our colleagues and the American people to get involved, to engage our fellow citizens in a discussion and to build a consensus, a consensus toward positive solutions."

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