Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Health Reform Becomes Law And Is Challenged In Court

Yesterday, just after President Barack Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C) introduced S. 3152, a bill to repeal the health reform law.

The repeal bill as introduced has 12 cosponsors, including Lindsey Graham (S. C.), Robert Bennett (Utah), Kit Bond (Mo.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Mike Crapo (Id.), John Ensign (Nev.), Kay Bailey Hutchinson (Texas), James Inhofe (Okla.), George LeMieux (Fla.), James Risch (Id.), Pat Roberts (Kan.), and David Vitter (La.).

In the last 25 years, Congress has repealed two health-related pieces of legislation. In 1989, the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act was repealed, in large part because of opposition from older Americans who thought the law would be too costly. Also in 1989, Congress repealed IRC Sec. 89, which would have imposed complicated nondiscrimination rules on health care plans. The complications in the Sec. 89 legislation convinced Congress that the provisions were unworkable.

States File Lawsuits

In addition to the Senate repeal bill, 14 states have filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the health reform law.

In Tallahassee, Fla., 13 attorneys general joined filed a 22-page complaint filed in federal court, charging that the new healthcare reform package exceeds Congress’s powers to regulate commerce, violates 10th Amendment protections of state sovereignty, and imposes an unconstitutional direct tax. The states involved in the lawsuit are Utah, Florida, South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Alabama, South Dakota, Idaho, Washington, Colorado and Louisiana

Virginia filed a separate suit challenging the individual mandate. The Virginia lawsuit focuses on a recent state law that asserts that that no state resident "shall be required to obtain or maintain a policy of individual insurance coverage.”

Senate Moves On Reconciliation Bill

Meanwhile, the Senate continues to consider H.R. 4872, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, which strikes out and modifies a number of tax and revenue provisions in the Affordable Care Act. Under budget reconciliation rules, the Health Care Reconciliation Act, already passed in the House of Representatives, can pass in the Senate with a 51 majority that is not subject to the 60-vote filibuster rules for other legislation considered in the Senate.

Yesterday, the Senate voted 56-40 to begin the debate. Under Senate rules, discussion of the reconciliation bill is limited to 20 hours. However, senators are permitted to offer as many amendments as they want, which don't count on toward the time limit.

Senate Democrats have the goal of sending a final package to the White House before its scheduled April recess begins on March 29. However, if the Senate makes any changes, the House and the Senate versions will go to a conference of House and Senate negotiators. An agreement by negotiators then will go back to the House and the Senate for a simple majority final vote by the two chambers under strict rules that set a timetable for action and that prohibit any amendments.


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