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The complex process Republicans want to use to repeal Obamacare, explained with a cartoon

Senate Republicans have taken the first step to repealing Obamacare.

They're doing it through a process called "reconciliation," which you can read about in-depth here. It can be confusing because it's a multi-step process — and for each step, Republicans are saying it's a vote to "repeal Obamacare." But only after entire process is complete will parts of Obamacare actually be repealed.

So to clear up what's actually happening, we made this cartoon.


Senate Republicans proposed a budget resolution, which is basically an outline of how the federal government should spend money, and they passed it early Thursday morning.

But here's what is different about this resolution: There's a special section called a "reconciliation directive." It doesn't repeal Obamacare; instead, it tells the committees that oversee Obamacare to write plans for how they can cut the deficit.

This tool exists because it makes reducing the deficit easier. That's because once the committees come up with language to change funding for these government programs, it will only take 51 votes to pass, rather than the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.

Republicans, as it turns out, control 52 seats in the senate right now.

But there are drawbacks to this powerful tool, too. Because it’s specifically for the budget, it can only be used to address budgetary issues — like how much we spend, how much revenue we bring in, and the debt limit.

The resolution passed the Senate — and the House is expected to vote on it later this week. But that does not repeal Obamacare. Instead, it tells committees to make plans to cut parts of Obamacare that involve the budget. This includes Medicaid expansion, the individual mandate, and tax credits for low- and middle-income Americans.

But they can't propose cutting the parts of the law that don't cost or save the government money, like allowing kids to be on their parents’ insurance until they're 26.

It's unclear if they can cut the portion of Obamacare that bans preexisting conditions — but it's the most popular part of the law, so Republicans may not go after it anyway.

Once the committees make these plans, they send it to the budget committee, which combines the two plans into one big plan.

Then these proposals go up for vote in the House and Senate.

And, as mentioned before, it only takes 51 votes in the Senate to pass this proposal. A simple majority in the House will also get the bill through.

So where are we now?

On Thursday morning, the Senate passed the resolution.

Now, the House needs to pass the same resolution with identical language.

Then those reconciliation directives kick in, and the committees start drafting language that cuts portions of Obamacare.

After that, both the House and Senate have to pass that reconciliation bill — and only then will these parts of Obamacare be repealed and kick off a transition period where Republicans will figure out a way to replace it. Republicans would have to decide just how quickly the repeal would go into effect, and whether they’d combine it with any sort of replacement.

Here’s the full process in one chart:

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