The Republican-led U.S. House voted to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law, demonstrating party leaders’ resolve to undo the president’s main domestic-policy achievement.
The bill, H.R. 6079, passed on a vote of 244-185 yesterday, with five Democrats joining Republicans in favor of repeal. The vote represented the 33rd time House Republicans have voted to revoke all or parts of the 2010 health care law, known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The measure won’t advance in the U.S. Senate, where Democrats hold the majority.
Unless Republicans win the presidency and gain the Senate majority next session, their attempts to repeal the law will go no further than the House.
The health-care law “is making our economy worse,” House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said before the vote. “Americans want a step-by-step approach that protects the access to care that they need, from the doctor they choose at a lower cost.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said in a statement after the House vote that he will press for scrapping the law.
“I’ve already committed to making its repeal the first order of business in the Senate next year if I am the leader of the majority,” McConnell said. “But in the meantime, I have filed a repeal amendment and will work to bring it up for a vote in the Senate.”
Control of House
Democrats provided all of the votes to pass the health care overhaul, and they lost control of the House in November 2010. The House Democrats voting yesterday to scrap the law were Dan Boren of Oklahoma; Larry Kissell of North Carolina; Mike McIntyre of North Carolina; Jim Matheson of Utah and Mike Ross of Arkansas.
The U.S. Supreme Court on June 28 upheld the core of the health care law. The justices, voting 5-4, said Congress can require Americans to carry insurance or pay a penalty, which the court said was within lawmakers’ constitutional power to tax.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said in a floor speech that the 2010 law makes health care “a right, not a privilege for a few.” She called the repeal provision a “bill to nowhere.”
Later, in a Bloomberg Television interview, Pelosi said the renewed vote to repeal is “not different, just an additional waste of time.” She rejected the notion that the health care overhaul may cost Democrats congressional seats in November as it did in 2010.
‘Do a Job’
“We came here to do a job, not to hold a job,” Pelosi said.
Michigan Republican Dave Camp criticized the health care law, saying “health care premiums are not going down as a result of this law, they are going in the other direction.”
Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said the law contains an incentive for “employers to drop coverage because it’s cheaper to pay the tax” than to pay insurance premiums.
In a column in yesterday’s Washington Post, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius disputed Camp’s contention about rising premiums. She said the share of small businesses offering employee health-care coverage has held steady at 59 percent since the law passed.
“This is another of their message weeks dedicated solely to the politics of their base,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said of the Republican efforts.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, was booed yesterday when he told a convention of the NAACP in Houston that he would repeal the health-care law.
House Republicans had pledged to “repeal and replace” the overhaul. Now, Republican leaders have dropped the word “replace” from their promise.
The omission is the result of an election-year calculation: They figure they stand to gain from public distaste for the 2010 measure’s central provision, the requirement that most Americans buy health insurance, and will lose if they start providing details about what they would do instead.
“They don’t care to replace it,” Ross Baker, a professor of American politics at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, said in a telephone interview. “They want to revert to the status quo. Whatever plan they have is going to end up alienating somebody, especially during a presidential campaign.”
‘The Big Thing’
The House won’t pursue other major health-care legislation before the November election because “the big thing is going to be the election,” Representative Wally Herger, a California Republican who leads the health subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee, said in an interview. “Everybody is looking to the election, everything is second fiddle to November.”
Democrats used a procedural vote yesterday for a political message: to get Republicans on record as voting to protect their own taxpayer-financed health care benefits. A Democratic proposal, defeated on a mostly party-line vote of 248-180, would have forced any lawmaker who voted to repeal the health-care law to forfeit his or her federal health-care benefits.