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Republicans face Sept. 30 deadline for fast-track Obamacare repeal

 (Associated Press)
(Associated Press)

The Senate parliamentarian has dealt a new blow to congressional Republicans' Obamacare repeal campaign, ruling that the GOP can use a special procedure to advance repeal legislation with 50 votes only until the end of September.

Republicans have been relying on a process known as budget reconciliation to try to roll back the 2010 healthcare law.

This process — which prevents legislation in the Senate from being filibustered — was crucial to passing a repeal bill because Republicans have only 52 votes in the Senate, short of the 60 normally required to override a filibuster.

But the process is limited by a budget resolution, which Congress passed earlier this year, laying out how repeal legislation can be advanced.

The parliamentarian has ruled that the resolution expires on Sept. 30, according to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the senior Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee. (Sanders is an independent but caucuses with the Democrats; he also sought the party's presidential nomination on 2016.)

"Today’s determination by the Senate parliamentarian is a major victory for the American people and everyone who fought against President Trump’s attempt to take away healthcare from up to 32 million people," Sanders said in a statement.

If Republicans want to renew their repeal push after Sept. 30, they would have to pass a new budget resolution.

But that threatens to complicate their efforts to push other legislation overhauling the tax code, which Trump and other senior Republicans have signaled is their top priority. They already plan to use the same budget procedure for the tax legislation.

The White House indicated that the development came as little surprise. Marc Short, Trump's legislative director, said in an interview Friday afternoon that the administration always assumed a Sept. 30 deadline for using the special budget provision to advance repeal legislation.  

The White House has been supporting an effort to revive the repeal push by several GOP senators, including Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Dean Heller of Nevada. 

Noah Bierman in Washington contributed to this report.

1:30 p.m.: This article was updated with White House reaction.

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