“The whole purpose of this first bill, remember, is to be able to pass it with 51 votes in the Senate,” he said. “So, if you have any provision that violates whatever those obscure rules are about what you can do and what you can’t do, then you have to take it out because it messes up the whole bill.”
For this specific legislation, the Senate ruled that the provisions regarding veterans violated the Byrd Rule because it was submitted by the Finance Committee and proper jurisdiction lies with the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. The technical verbiage was removed so it could still be considered under the rules of reconciliation.
Thornberry said that while the language regarding veterans was removed for this initial legislation, it can be added later in pieces that are not considered part of the reconciliation process. He said he fully supports tax credits for veterans who choose to be seen outside of the VA or TRICARE – which were not able to get under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act – but this change was necessary for the bill to stay within Senate rules.
“I think it absolutely makes sense” to make veterans eligible for tax credits under the AHCA, he said. “In the meantime, we’ve got to continue working to improve the VA and give veterans additional workable options with their VA coverage. That’s what the Choice (and Accountability) Act (of 2014) was supposed to do – if you live a certain distance away or you’ve been on a waiting list for a certain period of time, then you could go to a doctor of your choice.
“That has not been implemented very well, but we need to keep working for that option. But, I think it makes perfect sense that if you want to stay away from the VA completely … then you could be eligible for these other tax credits.”
U.S. Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Lubbock, also said veterans who do not use the VA for care should be assisted through tax credits. Arrington is a first-term congressman and represents Texas’s 19th Congressional District, which includes Throckmorton and Young Counties in the Wichita Falls area.
“The men and women who raised their right hand and committed to serve deserve nothing but the best and I assure you that this amendment makes no change to veterans’ health care,” he said of the GOP legislation. “My colleagues and I, working with the administration, are committed to ensuring qualified veterans who don’t receive care through the VA system have access to a tax credit.”
In his newsletter distributed on Monday, Arrington said the bill is not perfect, but it “strikes at the heart of Obamacare by repealing its mandates, eliminating its taxes, and gutting its regulations.”
Most bills in the Senate require a two-thirds vote to pass, or 60 votes. But, under reconciliation, a bill can pass with a simple majority of 51 votes.