Last night Republicans won control of the Presidency and retained control of the House and Senate. So naturally, there will be an attempt to repeal Obamacare. But Republicans will not have a filibuster-proof majority. So my question is, is it possible to repeal Obamacare through the Budget Reconciliation process, which requires only a bare majority in the Senate?

I recall that the Republican Congress under Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell managed to send a repeal of Obamacare to President Obama's desk. How did they do that, through budget reconciliation or some other process?

2 Answers 2


It's possible to "repeal" anything that requires funding, by simply stop funding it. That would mean that either an omnibus or individual agency spending and authorization legislation pass without expressed Obamacare funding. Almost all spending bills use reconciliation, meaning 51 votes.

Reconciliation dates to the 1974 Budget Act and has been used many times since to enact spending and tax legislation. The House Rules Committee explains the reconciliation process here. Link

And yes, the Senate passed the repeal of Obamacare through reconciliation

The Senate passed the Restoring Americans' Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act in December. It was successful because Republicans used the process of budget reconciliation that prevented a filibuster by Senate Democrats.

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    Did the Restoring Americans' Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act simply defund Obamacare or did it completely repeal it? Because there are parts of Obamacare that are not about spending money. Nov 9, 2016 at 22:12
  • Seems like a new question to me
    – user9790
    Nov 10, 2016 at 3:50
  • @KeshavSrinivasan It only altered financial aspects of it. The act remains.
    – user9614
    May 6, 2017 at 22:15
  • @KDog Defunding is not repealing. The next congress can just again change the numbers without having to pass a new law.
    – user9614
    May 15, 2017 at 14:04
  • The bill you link is not a full repeal of Obamacare. It's a partial repeal leaving many provisions intact. See thehill.com/policy/healthcare/… . Jul 30, 2017 at 9:32

No, but parts of it can.

The main part of Obamacare (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) was passed with 60 votes. Reconciliation was only used (in a follow-up law, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010) as a fixup to address some spending/revenue matters (e.g. more generous subsidies, repealing the Cornhusker Kickback, and making the mandate cheaper (i.e. less effective)).

Many of the law's most well-known provisions (no discrimination against pre-existing conditions, essential health benefits, staying on your parents' plan until age 26) are not related to government spending or revenue.

Thus, those provisions can't be modified using reconciliation. For example, the parliamentarian specifically ruled that essential health benefits can not be part of reconciliation.

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