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Bills Without Prayer Fill U.S. House Republican Agenda

U.S. Representative Kevin Brady
U.S. Representative Kevin Brady, a Republican from Texas, said recently "what we’ve learned with new members last session is that if we want to unite we have to lay a foundation." Photographer: Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly via Getty Images

May 16 (Bloomberg) -- As the U.S. Senate works to rewrite immigration policy, the House of Representatives is spending floor time on legislation that won’t become law, voting today to repeal President Barack Obama’s 2010 health-care law.

The near party-line 229-195 vote marks the 37th time the House has voted to repeal or defund at least part of the law, and the third time the chamber voted to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act.

Tomorrow, the House is set to consider a bill that would require the Securities and Exchange Commission to assess the costs of proposed regulations, which the White House said would be “burdensome and disruptive.” Last week, the House passed a measure to ensure U.S. bondholders would be paid if Congress can’t agree on a plan to raise the nation’s debt limit.

House Republican leaders are filling the calendar with legislation that won’t pass the Senate in part because they see a political payoff in future months, when they’ll need members’ support for tough votes such as raising the debt ceiling and passing annual government spending bills.

“It’s a good strategy,” Representative Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, said in an interview. “What we’ve learned with new members last session is that if we want to unite we have to lay a foundation.”

“Our new members especially want us to go back to square one, what we stand for, what we believe in, what are we fighting for,” Brady said. “That all helps lead up to the tougher issues.”

Tea Party

Representative John Boehner of Ohio has sometimes had trouble holding his Republican caucus together since becoming House speaker in January 2011. Uprisings by antitax Tea Party lawmakers doomed his effort to reach a budget deal with Obama and brought the U.S. to the brink of a possible default before lawmakers agreed to raise the limit on Treasury borrowing.

Second-ranking House Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland criticized the Republican agenda this week as “all politics.”

“The Republicans are continuing to focus on political posturing and not positive policy,” Hoyer told reporters.

The Senate Judiciary Committee today held its third all-day meeting to make changes to an immigration plan proposed by a bipartisan group of eight senators. A bipartisan House group of eight members members will introduce a comprehensive immigration plan next month that will cover all but one or two of the issues they have been negotiating, said Texas Republican John Carter.

2014 Election

Today’s vote to repeal the health-care law gave new House Republicans a chance to go on the record against it and provides ammunition for the 2014 midterm election, a year when the law’s main provisions will be implemented.

New House members and leaders of the Republican Study Committee, a group that promotes small government, have sought a vote on H.R. 45, to rescind the Affordable Care Act, for months.

“Within the RSC we have been pushing since the beginning of this year to have a clean vote on the repeal of Obamacare,” Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who leads the study committee, said in an interview.

“We have a pretty significant number of new members who have never had an opportunity to, on the record, with their vote, express their disdain for Obamacare,” Representative Steve Womack, an Arkansas Republican, said in an interview.

30 Million

Obama’s health-care law, which seeks to extend insurance coverage to at least 30 million people, was passed by Congress with no Republican votes. Opponents say it will lead to higher taxes and insurance premiums and reduced delivery of health care.

Boehner told reporters today that the repeal vote wasn’t a “waste of time” and that Republicans will continue working to “scrap the law in its entirety so we can focus on patient-centered reforms.” Boehner made his weekly remarks to reporters while standing next to a 7-foot, 3-inch stack of paper that Republicans said represented the regulations resulting from the law.

For Representative Tim Huelskamp, a Kansas Republican who often votes against his leaders, the repeal vote fulfills a promise made to get his vote earlier this year for a stopgap government-funding measure.

“It’s more than just a measure, a gesture,” Huelskamp said in an interview. “It is identifying what Republicans are for and what we are willing to do. We’re going to talk about the alternatives.”

Medical Conditions

A vote to rescind the health law will also help House Republicans push parts of their agenda. Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, last month had to cancel a vote on a bill to extend insurance coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions. The measure didn’t have enough support from his party, in part because some members viewed it as going against their goal of repeal.

The Securities and Exchange Commission measure, which will be taken up tomorrow, addresses Republicans’ belief that the government is overreaching through expanding regulations.

“This bill would require the SEC to ensure that the benefits of any rulemaking outweigh the costs,” Representative Scott Garrett, a New Jersey Republican, said in a statement. It would require regulations to be “accessible, consistent, written in plain language and easy to understand,” he said.

The White House budget office, in a statement yesterday opposing H.R. 1062, said it would add requirements that would cause “unnecessary delays” in setting new rules and undermine the SEC’s ability to do its job.

On May 9, the House passed a bill to exempt federal payments to creditors from the U.S. debt limit, signaling the start of the latest debate over the nation’s borrowing authority. The bill, H.R. 807, is intended to insulate Republicans from criticism that they would let the U.S. default on its debt. It has almost no chance of advancing in the Democratic-led Senate and faces a veto threat from Obama.

To contact the reporter on this story: Roxana Tiron in Washington at rtiron@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider at jschneider50@bloomberg.net

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