The concurrent resolution is binding in regard to how Congress can use the reconciliation process, although they could decide not to pass a reconciliation bill. Under the agreement it allows reconciliation but narrows it to fewer committees then what the House had proposed. Like the Senate resolution, it directs the Finance Committee and the HELP Committee to find savings in mandatory/entitlement spending. In the House the three committees directed to find this savings are the Ways and Means, Commerce and Technology Committee and Education and Workforce Committee.
Although the actual resolution may not list specific directions, related spending tables require significant cuts in mandatory spending by category. One target is the Pell college grants for low income students. It eliminates mandatory funding but allows Congress to fund it through appropriations which would place enormous pressure on Labor-HHS funding. It also eliminates a mandatory loan forgiveness program created in the last Higher Education Act. The loan forgiveness, which covers some federal student loans for child welfare workers as well as several other categories of workers, allows a loan forgiveness if someone has worked for ten years in a covered profession and agency. If loans are paid over ten years, the remainder is forgiven. That program has not paid out yet because it’s been just under ten years since enactment. Through Budget Committee testimony the loan forgiveness program (and some other student loans) are targets to reach the required cuts under education.
The Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) is in a similar category, not necessary listed but a prime target. It is under a different spending category of spending than education but it is under the authority of the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance. The House Committee has signed off on its elimination in recent congresses.
In the end the reconciliation is tied to a pending Supreme Court ruling likely to be released in the next two months. The ACA has been challenged by opponents who say that citizens receiving a tax credit in a health care exchange run by the federal government (as is an option) instead of an exchange run by the state are not eligible for the tax credit. The tax credits significantly reduce the premiums on health care for many people. Opponents say the technical reading of the law’s language limits credits to state run exchanges only. If the Supreme Court agrees an estimated 8 million people will lose their tax credits and premiums would skyrocket. Congress might be forced to act if the outcry where too great.
In such a case it is unclear what this Congress would do. They could use the reconciliation but could be forced to at least patch over the credits until after the next election. What would complicate the issue more, if this part of the ACA is overturned by the Supreme Court and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) rules that keeping the tax credits in place will be “scored” as new spending. There would be pressure in Congress to find cuts elsewhere. Programs such as Pell grants, student loans and SSBG would be prime targets. The President may veto anything like that but he may be forced into a negotiation—all depending on the Court decision, the public reaction and the politics.