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What Happens If The AHCA Doesn't Pass The Senate?

by Abby Norman

Since President Trump was elected and set out to make good on his campaign's promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with the American Health Care Act (AHCA) many Americans have likely been trying to remember what they learned in their high school history classes. The process by which a bill becomes law is in some ways fairly straight forward, but with a lot of little details that can trip up the process along the way. What happens if the AHCA doesn't pass the Senate? The proposed ACA replacement could have a long road ahead of it.

At the most basic level, a bill can't become a law unless both houses of Congress (the House of Representatives and the Senate) can agree on its contents, as explained by Congress' official website. The House and the Senate, made up of representatives and senators from every state, each draft a version of the proposed bill. Usually they’re helped by various committees who specialize in certain things, so when a bill is up for a vote they are useful to help with its wording. In the case of the AHCA, since the House voted last month to pass the revised version of the bill, it’s now on its way to the Senate. In order for the bill to reach the president (who can either sign it into law or veto it), the Senate must vote to pass it.

The AHCA has been a very polarizing bill, not even just between the two major political parties, but even within them. In order to get the number of votes required to pass through the Senate, conservatives can’t lose more than two votes of their party’s senators (it’s expected that no democratic senator will vote to pass the bill). While many conservative senators do support the AHCA, there are many who represent states who would be disproportionately, adversely affected by it — particular where the elimination of the Medicaid expansion program is concerned, according to Vox.

Because of this, despite the fact that there are many Republican senators in support of repealing and replacing the ACA, they aren’t universally convinced that this bill is the right way to go about it, according to Vox. If the Senate doesn’t pass the bill, it will need to once again go through the process of being rewritten to address the problems the Senate attributes to the bill’s failure to pass. Once again, the House and the Senate have to be able to agree on what the bill contains and how it’s worded, and once again that could mean going through various committees — all of which takes a lot of time. In turn, that would prolong the Trump administration’s delivery on their promise to repeal the ACA and replace it with something else.

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That being said, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer thinks Republicans should not repeal the ACA entirely, but rather, try to come up with a way to fix it that everyone can agree on. "Drop repeal and then come talk to us about finding a bipartisan way forward,” Schumer told The Hill, "We are always willing to work in a bipartisan way.”