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Senate eyes November votes on Obamacare repeal, Planned Parenthood

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The Senate will likely take up a package to repeal key parts of Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood sometime in November, the chamber’s second-ranking Republican said Wednesday.

Congressional Republicans are eager to take advantage of a powerful procedural tool called reconciliation that allows a measure to avoid a filibuster in the Senate – making it much easier to finally send President Barack Obama a bill that dismantles his health care law.

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The House passed the reconciliation package last week. And Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas said the legislation was headed to the Senate floor in the coming weeks, and that a vote-a-rama – a marathon series of votes – was coming.

“My expectation is that it’d be sometime this fall,” Cornyn told reporters. “The week or so before Thanksgiving looks like a good opportunity.”

The anti-Obamacare package repeals key elements of the health care law, including the individual and employer mandates as well as two taxes – the Cadillac tax on pricey benefit plans and a tax on medical devices.

The reconciliation bill also lost a chunk of its savings when one of its provisions – repealing the Obamacare auto-enrollment requirement – was included in the two-year budget deal unveiled earlier this week. Rolling back that provision of the health care law is projected to save $7.9 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Already, three Republicans – Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah – have said they will vote against the reconciliation bill as written, since it doesn’t go far enough to more fully repeal Obamacare. The package will be open for amendments, but the Senate parliamentarian will play a key role in determining which changes can be included and which won’t qualify, under special Senate rules that determine how the reconciliation process can be used.

“You have to be careful with the privileged status of the bill too, because some amendments would basically eliminate the 51-vote rule for reconciliation,” Cornyn said. “You go to 60 votes, which defeats the whole purpose.”

Burgess Everett contributed to this report.

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