Senate Republicans have made it clear they're not in a rush to write a health care bill. They're meeting again today, to talk (again) about how to strip out expensive health insurance regulations. And they always come out talking about how they're not going to be tied to any deadlines, and how they're just starting to talk about goals.
But the reality is, at some point there's going to be a practical deadline for them — because it's going to create a traffic jam with the rest of the Senate agenda, especially the fiscal 2018 budget resolution and the work Republicans hope to do on tax reform. Here's why:
- Health care is being done as a budget "reconciliation" bill for fiscal 2017. That's how they can pass it in the Senate with just 51 votes.
- But soon, the House and Senate will want to start working on their budget resolutions (the basic blueprint) for fiscal 2018. That will set the stage for tax reform.
- If they finish next year's budget resolution before the health care bill is done, it could invalidate this year's reconciliation instructions that allow the health care bill to move forward.
They've got some time: Senate Republicans aren't sweating it right now. CQ reported that Senate Budget Committee chairman Michael Enzi believes they can work on both tracks for a while, because they can do everything except approve a final budget resolution without jeopardizing the health care bill. And a GOP aide told me that they can put off the final budget resolution for months if they have to.
Yes, but: At some point, President Donald Trump is going to start tapping his foot and telling them to move faster. Just ask House Speaker Paul Ryan.