In the November 2014 elections, the American people voted for a change in Washington. The Obama administration now faces a Republican majority in both the House and the Senate. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as ObamaCare, is largely opposed by Republicans. As a result, it is likely the legislation will face new challenges.
Impact of Congress on the ACA
Before the November 2014 elections, Republicans held a majority in the House of Representatives but not in the Senate. Now that they have a majority in the Senate as well, several changes will occur that will impact the ACA.
The Majority Leader of the Senate has control over what the Senate considers for debate and voting. With this position now being held by a Republican, the President will face additional opposition to his agenda. In particular, challenges to the ACA will have an easier time being brought to debate and to a vote.
All Senate committees will now be chaired by Republicans as well. This is likely to mean that there will be additional investigations and oversight hearings into how the ACA is being implemented. This will cause a lot of contention between the President and the Senate.
The one factor still in Obama’s favor is that the Republicans do not have the 60 seat majority in the Senate. This means that Democrats and others can still filibuster, or continue debate indefinitely, any issue that is presented before the Senate. In order to bring an issue to a vote, the Republicans will need other allies in the Senate to reach the 60-vote requirement. This may encourage a small amount of cooperation between Senate Republicans and other Senate members.
Likely Challenges to the ACA
With the majority in both the House and Senate, Republicans are likely to offer at least one bill to completely repeal the ACA. However, while this will easily pass the House, there are not enough votes to end debate and vote on this type of bill in the Senate. Even if it were to pass both Chambers of Congress, Obama would veto the bill and not sign it into law.
There are other changes that Republicans will likely try to make to the law as well, including changes to help businesses lessen the impact of ObamaCare. They may introduce measures to modify the definition of a full-time employee under the law from 30 hours per week to 40 hours per week. There may also be votes on repealing the medical device tax, or eliminating controversial programs that are intended to stabilize prices in the insurance Marketplace.
Some of the changes are popular enough that the Republicans may be able to pass them with other supporters in the Senate. If any changes are passed, Obama may find himself in a challenging situation. While he has said in the past that he will work with anyone to improve the law, agreeing to changes may cause him to look weak or undermine support for the ACA. As a result, he will have to carefully consider in responding to any bills placed before him.
The Republican victories in the Senate in November 2014 have significantly changed the political landscape for the Obama administration. Obama will face stiff opposition on his agenda, and the ACA will be challenged in a variety of ways. Neither side can afford to be entirely uncooperative, but their opposing agendas will define the rest of Obama’s term.