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Abby Finkenauer, a Democrat hoping to claim Republican Chuck Grassley’s seat in the U.S. Senate, tweeted March 23 about Grassley’s attempts to get rid of the Affordable Care Act.
“The Affordable Care Act was signed into law TWELVE years ago today,” she tweeted. “Since then, @ChuckGrassley has voted to roll it back TWELVE times — and even voted to take away coverage for folks with preexisting conditions.”
The Affordable Care Act, enacted March 23, 2010, restructured the U.S. health care system with major changes including a requirement every American have health insurance, protections for people with preexisting health conditions and an obligation for health insurers to cover preventive care without cost to patients.
The majority of Americans now like the act, also known as Obamacare.
In a November 2020 Gallup poll, 55 percent of Americans said they support the law, tying a number also reached in April 2017. But support varies by party. In the 2020 survey, 94 percent of Democrats polled favored the law, compared with 13 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of independents, Gallup reported.
Finkenauer is trying to score points with that majority by pointing out Grassley’s efforts over the years to undermine the law. These 12 times Grassley “tried to roll it back” go back to 2015, according to sourcing provided by Finkenauer’s campaign. We’ve numbered the attempts below so you can keep track.
1. The first was in March 2015, when Grassley voted for the Senate’s fiscal 2016 budget resolution, which included a provision that would allow reconciliation legislation to be used to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
A reconciliation bill needs only a simple majority to pass in the Senate, as opposed to 60 votes. The procedure is designed to expedite legislation, especially for timely budget issues, but it has been used increasingly for thorny issues unlikely to get wider support.
2. On April 14, 2015, Grassley voted in favor of an amendment that would have repealed the part of the Affordable Care Act that required individuals to have health insurance. The amendment needed 60 votes, but got 54 so it failed.
3. Senate Republicans, including Grassley, tried to defund the Affordable Care Act as part of the Fiscal 2016 Conference Report Budget resolution in May 2015. This bill included non-binding language to repeal the law as part of a plan to reduce federal spending.
The conference report passed 51 to 48 (only a simple majority required), but as a guide it did not actually change policy without further legislation to implement the recommendations, reported law firm Reed Smith in a legislative update May 19, 2015.
4. On Dec. 3, 2015, Grassley voted for an amendment that would make permanent a proposed repeal of the so-called “Cadillac tax,” a provision of the Affordable Care Act that would have imposed a 40 percent excise tax on the most generous employer-sponsored health care plans.
This unpopular provision was supposed to go into effect in 2018, but the omnibus spending bill passed in December 2015 delayed it by two years. In 2019, the tax was permanently repealed, the Wall Street Journal reported.
5. In early 2017, Senate Republicans started laying the groundwork for a major push to dump the Affordable Care Act. On Jan. 17, 2017, Grassley voted for a budget resolution that set spending and revenue targets for the next decade. That plan instructed House and Senate committees to come up with at least $1 billion each in deficit reduction, expected to be used to repeal parts of the 2010 health care package.
6, 7, 8 and 9. During the last week of July 2017, the Senate voted on three major plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Each one failed, Ballotpedia reported.
On July 25, 2017, Grassley voted for a motion to start debate on a repeal. Vice President Mike Pence was forced to break a 50-50 tie, allowing debate, CNBC reported. A vote on the Senate’s version of a replacement health care bill failed to get 60 votes required.
Also that day, Grassley voted on a motion by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to get around a Democratic point of order on the replacement bill.
On July 26, 2017, a Grassley-supported amendment that would have put an end point on Medicaid expansion, among other Affordable Care Act rollbacks, was rejected in the Senate 45 to 55.
On July 28, 2017, the Senate voted on a proposal referred to as the “skinny repeal” that would have dropped the mandate for individuals to have health insurance and for employers to offer it. The amendment failed with three Republicans, John McCain, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, voting with Democrats for a 49 to 51 vote, NBC reported.
10. On Oct. 19, 2017, when the Senate was establishing the congressional budget for fiscal 2018, Grassley voted for an amendment that provided for reconciliation instructions for the purpose of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, according to the Senate floor activity report for that day.
The amendment did not pass.
11. On Dec. 2, 2017, Grassley voted for a massive federal tax overhaul that also eliminated the penalty under the Affordable Care Act for individuals who don’t have health insurance.
“This bill also gets rid of the unfair and regressive Obamacare individual mandate tax, giving Iowans the freedom to make choices that work best for them instead of being forced by the federal government to purchase an unaffordable product they either don’t want or don’t need,” Grassley said in a statement Dec. 2, 2017.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed by President Donald Trump Dec. 22, 2017, Ballotpedia reported.
12. Grassley was serving on the Senate Budget Committee that on March 28, 2019, approved a Fiscal 2020 budget resolution that would allow the chairman of the committee to revise reserve fund allocations by taking steps that could include “improving Americans’ health care options — including repealing and replacing Obamacare and preserving preexisting condition protections …”
Through a dozen or more efforts to roll back or completely repeal the Affordable Care Act, Congressional Republicans succeeded in some measures, failed in others.
Some of the Grassley votes listed by Finkenauer’s campaign opened the door for roll backs, but didn’t directly reduce or repeal the health care legislation. Other votes would have been for a full repeal, which would have eliminated protection for patients with preexisting conditions, as Finkenauer claimed in her March 23 tweet.
We give Finkenauer an A.
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Members of the Fact Checker team are Elijah Decious, Erin Jordan, Marissa Payne and Michaela Ramm. This Fact Checker was researched and written by Erin Jordan.