A recent article states, "for technical reasons of parliamentary procedure, Graham-Cassidy has to pass by the end of this month, or not at all". Why is this?

  • Is it worth noting that the precedent has been set to just get rid of the 3/5 filibuster rules altogether? If that happens, it could be passed at any time.
    – D M
    Sep 18, 2017 at 23:34

2 Answers 2



Republicans want to pass healthcare reform with a simple majority. To do this, they either have to change the Senate rules or use an existing rule called Reconciliation.

To use Reconciliation, they have to pass a budget resolution. They can then later reconcile the Senate version of a budget bill with the House version addressing the same budgetary area. During that process, the bill only needs a simple majority to pass. They already passed a budget for the fiscal year starting October 1st, 2017. They need to pass and reconcile the bill before October to use Reconciliation. After that, they'd have to pass a new budget resolution for the new fiscal year. They don't want to do that for several reasons, including that they couldn't use Reconciliation again next year.

Changing the rules

In theory, they could vote to change the rules instead. That only requires a simple majority vote, but it would apply to other issues than just this one. They don't want to be the ones to change that rule. They would rather be able to make political hay when the Democrats do later. Also, it's possible that some Senators would be against changing the rule even if they were for healthcare reform.


It would also be theoretically possible for a bill to pass without being filibustered, so they would only need a simple majority. But Democrats have promised to filibuster and it only takes one to start the process. Or the bill could get sixty votes, in which case they can invoke cloture on a filibuster. But that would require at least eight Democrats (or independents), and none have said that they support the bill.

Republicans could wait until the new Senate in 2019, but most project the Republicans to lose one or two seats or stay the same in the Senate. And Republicans could lose the House outright, in which case they couldn't pass anything. So short of a crisis or Donald Trump being assassinated in such a way that Republicans became more popular, this path is unlikely to work.

  • Agree with the above, however the introduction of G-C bill to the floor of the Senate raises the question of CBO scoring. As previous R&R bills have generated less than pleasing CBO scores, by putting G-C on a "tight schedule" can force senators to have to vote before the CBO scoring is public. So in addition to the reconciliation requirement of timing, waiting to "rush" the bill before deadline but prior to CBO is just strategic.
    – BobE
    Sep 20, 2017 at 13:48

Here's an article with a more detailed explanation.

Republicans have until Sept. 30 to repeal Obamacare with only 51 votes in the Senate under the current budget resolution, further complicating the GOP's attempts to try again after a failed attempt in late July.

The Senate Parliamentarian ruled on Friday that the procedural tool called reconciliation, which Republicans hoped to use to bypass a filibuster in the Senate, expires on Sept. 30. Reconciliation allows a Senate bill to be advanced with only 51 votes instead of the 60 votes that are usually needed.

The GOP passed a budget resolution back in January that sets up the instructions on how to pass a healthcare bill through reconciliation. The procedural tool has some restrictions for using the budget pathway, including that legislation must slightly reduce the deficit and include only items that impact budget and spending levels.

But that resolution and reconciliation instructions expire on Sept. 30 at the end of the federal fiscal year, which means the fast-track tool for passing Obamacare repeal also expires then.

To continue to use reconciliation past that deadline, Republicans would have to pass a new budget resolution after Sept. 30.

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