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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

The Senate health care bill, which Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said will be released on Thursday, will contain optional state waivers of some Affordable Care Act insurance regulations, according to two senior GOP aides. But those waivers may not end up in the final bill — because they could get stripped out for violating Senate budget rules.

Here's why: The Congressional Budget Office has to give its cost estimates for the bill before Republicans can argue their case to the Senate parliamentarian that the waivers should be allowed. (The bill has to comply with Senate budget rules, and she decides whether it does.) And there's a good chance that she'll rule that the waivers, including essential health benefits, have to come out. One of the aides described the parliamentarian as "skeptical."

The Senate has long said that altering the ACA's regulations would not comply with the rules of the process the GOP is using, but the House included the state waivers in their final bill.

So that means Republicans may only be able to make the ACA's current state waivers more flexible. It's unclear how many members know this, but conservatives — who were pushing to waive even more of the ACA regulations than the House did, or even require states to opt into the regulations rather than out — will surely be disappointed.

Which ACA regulations would be covered in the state waivers:

  • Essential health benefits, or the list of 10 services insurers must cover.
  • The medical loss ratio, or the regulation of how much premium income insurers must spend on patient claims.
  • The age rating band, or the requirement that premiums for older people be no more than three times the amount of premiums charged to younger people.
  • The actuarial value, or the requirement that plans cover a certain percentage of a person's total health care costs.

Go deeper

In photos: Protests outside fortified capitols draw only small groups

Armed members of the far-right extremist group the Boogaloo Bois near the Michigan Capitol Building in Lansing on Jan. 17. About 20 protesters showed up, AP notes. Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

Small groups of protesters rallied outside fortified statehouses over the weekend ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

The big picture: Some protests attracted armed members of far-right extremist groups but there were no reports of clashes, as had been feared. The National Guard and law enforcement outnumbered demonstrators, as security was heightened around the U.S. to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots, per AP.

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations before leaving office

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump plans to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations on his final full day in office Tuesday, sources familiar with the matter told Axios.

Why it matters: This is a continuation of the president's controversial December spree that saw full pardons granted to more than two dozen people — including former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, longtime associate Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father of Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

  • The pardons set to be issued before Trump exits the White House will be a mix of criminal justice ones and pardons for people connected to the president, the sources said.
  • CNN first reported this news.

Go deeper: Convicts turn to D.C. fixers for Trump pardons

Schumer's m(aj)ority checklist

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Capitalizing on the Georgia runoffs, achieving a 50-50 Senate and launching an impeachment trial are weighty to-dos for getting Joe Biden's administration up and running on Day One.

What to watch: A blend of ceremonies, hearings and legal timelines will come into play on Tuesday and Wednesday so Chuck Schumer can actually claim the Senate majority and propel the new president's agenda.