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Is Congress Really Exempt From Trumpcare?

Christian Worstell

by Christian Worstell | Published January 20, 2022 | Reviewed by John Krahnert

You’ve likely heard a lot about Trumpcare lately. And you may have heard about Congress making itself exempt from the proposed health care bill. But is that really true?

Yes and no.

Congress did in fact grant itself an exemption, something that drew the attention and ire of critics. However, the exemption was based on procedure and not on intention. In other words, the reason for drafting the exemption was not because Congress wanted to avoid the ramifications of Trumpcare but because doing so would help push the bill closer to becoming law.

The Reason for Exemption

The Republican Party has attempted to pass Trumpcare, or the American Health Care Act, as a reconciliation bill. That means the Senate would be allowed to approve the bill with just a simple majority vote (requiring just 51 votes). The bill narrowly passed the House of Representatives on May 4, 217-213.

Under normal Senate rules, 60 votes are needed to invoke "cloture" to end debate and bring a bill to a vote. Without invoking cloture, those opposed to the bill could filibuster indefinitely, effectively killing it.

Knowing they would need some Democratic help to reach 60 votes in the Senate — and knowing they weren’t likely to receive it — the GOP party took the reconciliation route.

Under the rules of reconciliation, a committee drafting a bill may not make changes under the jurisdiction of other committees. The Trumpcare bill was pulled from the House floor prior to its scheduled vote in March in order to make some changes in hopes of winning over more voters.

Among those changes was adding a provision that would allow states to obtain waivers from having to follow certain federal guidelines concerning preexisting conditions and essential benefits as they relate to health insurance premiums and coverage. These changes to the bill may have jeopardized the bill’s reconciliation status.

In order to offset the exemption status, a separate standalone bill was drafted that would negate the exemption status for Congress if the Trumpcare bill indeed passed. So although there was an exemption made for Congress, that exemption would be wiped out by the standalone bill and no actual exemption would be set in place.

It now appears is if the exemption has become entirely irrelevant anyway as the Senate has moved forward with drafting its own health care bill instead of voting on the Trumpcare bill.

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