Lawmakers' last week in session in 2015 was consumed by moving the omnibus budget package and the tax extenders bill, so they decided to wait to take up the repeal measure that passed the Senate early this month. A vote is now planned for Jan. 6.
President Barack Obama has promised he'll veto the bill whenever it arrives on his desk. Still it represents the first time Republicans have gotten a repeal bill to the president's desk after many tries.
James Capretta, visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said the most important aspect of the bill for conservatives is creating a blueprint for passing a repeal bill through the reconciliation process, which requires a simple majority vote. “The procedural part of it is important,” he said.
The Senate parliamentarian originally ruled that the reconciliation process couldn't be used for the repeal effort except for provisions that affect the budget. Republicans got around that by reducing the tax penalties for not having coverage to zero instead of eliminating the ACA's insurance mandate.
Capretta said the action allows Republicans to fulfill a campaign promise of doing everything they could to repeal Obama's healthcare law, and demonstrates what they could accomplish with a Republican president in the White House.
In that situation, however, the GOP would probably need to offer a replacement for the law, and there's no consensus in the party about what that would look like. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) says the party will introduce an alternative to the Affordable Care Act next year.