Heritage Action is threatening to punish Republicans if they vote for a measure repealing part, but not all, of Obamacare.
The conservative group, the sister organization of the conservative think tank led by former Sen. Jim DeMint, said Tuesday it will "key vote" a bill the House is poised to take up that ditches the law's individual and employer mandates, a number of the law's taxes and several other components, including an independent panel to cut Medicare costs.
That's because the bill doesn't fully repeal the Affordable Care Act, including its major spending provisions -- the expansion of Medicaid and subsidies for individuals to purchase insurance on the exchanges. By using the reconciliation process to get rid of the healthcare law they hate, Republicans only have to gain a simple majority of Senate votes. But under those rules, only provisions that are tied to spending can be included in the measure.
While congressional aides say it's impossible to repeal certain parts of the healthcare law, such as its insurance regulations, using budget reconciliation rules, Heritage Action is disputing that. The group is insisting that Republicans are denying that the full law can be repealed, and it is threatening to count a vote for the reconciliation bill against members.
"House Republican leaders are putting their members in a terrible position," said Heritage Action communications director Dan Holler. "This bill will not restore Americans’ health+care freedom because it leaves the main pillars of the law in place. GOP leaders are violating an explicit promise made in the budget and walking back on their public commitment to fully repeal Obamacare. By doing so they are undermining any serious effort to repeal the law in 2017."
Policy experts agree that using budget reconciliation rules to repeal Obamacare is Republicans' best chance to put a repeal bill on President Obama's desk, even though the president is virtually guaranteed to veto it.
The move by Heritage complicates the effort, as it puts pressure on conservatives to vote against a bill they had otherwise been enthusiastic about. And by punishing Republicans, Heritage may inadvertently praise Democrats, who plan to vote against reconciliation because they support the healthcare law. Holler wouldn't tell the Washington Examiner whether Democrats will get a positive score from Heritage for opposing the bill.
"Sometimes folks vote the right way for the wrong reason," he said.
Corrected: An earlier version of this story said that Heritage Action was led by former Sen. Jim DeMint. DeMint heads the sister organization, the Heritage Foundation.