California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

House Approves Bill To Fully Repeal the ACA; Senate Passage Unlikely

The House on Thursday voted 229-195 to approve legislation (HR 45) -- sponsored by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) -- that would fully repeal the Affordable Care Act, Reuters reports (Morgan, Reuters, 5/16).

According to the Washington Post's "Post Politics," it is the 37th time that congressional Republicans have attempted to repeal, defund or dismantle the law (Fahrenthold/O'Keefe, "Post Politics," Washington Post, 5/15).

The House GOP has dedicated 15% of its time on the floor on votes to limit or eliminate the ACA. It also marks the 43rd day in the 281 days since Republicans claimed the majority in the House in January 2011 that the GOP has allocated time to voting on repealing the ACA.

Since then, the U.S. Supreme Court has reaffirmed the constitutionality of the ACA and several Republican leaders have acknowledged that President Obama's re-election in 2012 meant the law would stand.

However, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) announced last week that he would schedule a repeal vote this week. Some observers suggested that the vote could be Cantor's attempt to extend an "olive branch" to his GOP colleagues after his failed effort to pass a bill (HR 1549) that would have boosted funding for the ACA's temporary high-risk insurance pool program. A Cantor spokesperson said the timing of the vote was partly intended to provide the GOP's freshmen a chance to formally weigh in on the issue (California Healthline, 5/16). 

GOP Freshmen Use Vote To Criticize ACA, IRS

Some of the more than 70 GOP freshmen took advantage of the vote, giving short floor speeches condemning the law, the Wall Street Journal's "Washington Wire" reports.

Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.) said, "Heavy-handed government has been chipping away at your freedom." 

Meanwhile, Reps. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) were among several GOP lawmakers who sought to capitalize on a recent controversy regarding the Internal Revenue Service auditing tea party groups, arguing that the IRS could not be trusted to collect information about U.S. residents' health plans next year or administer penalties for those who do not obtain coverage. 

Democrats Call Vote 'Waste of Time'

Although two Democrats -- Reps. Jim Matheson (Utah) and Mike McIntyre (N.C.) -- joined Republicans in voting for the repeal, most Democrats used the vote to criticize Republicans for wasting time on a bill that is unlikely to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate (Radnofsky, "Washington Wire," Wall Street Journal, 5/16).

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the vote "a clear waste of time and of taxpayer dollars." She added, "[I]t's a deliberate vote to eliminate the affordable quality health and care benefits millions of Americans are already enjoying" (Levey, "Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 5/16). 

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said, "Apparently, the Republicans are opposed to Obamacare." He added, "I know that comes as a shock to America, so we need to tell them one more time. Or 37 times, or maybe a 38th or a 39th or a 40th or a 100th time" (Reuters, 5/16).

Boehner Vague on GOP Replacement Bill

Following the vote, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said House Republicans would hold discussions "in the coming weeks" on legislation to replace the ACA, Politico reports.

He added that the GOP will "keep the focus on Obamacare, because it's driving up the cost of health care, it's reducing access for the American people and it's making it harder for small businesses to hire workers" (Sherman, Politico, 5/16).

Cost of Repeal

The vote comes after Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf on Wednesday said the federal deficit could jump by at least $109 billion over 10 years if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.

lmendorf said the projected deficit increase is based on CBO's analysis of repealing the ACA in July 2012, when the House last voted on a bill to repeal the law. He noted that while CBO did not have enough time to update the estimates based on the most recent baseline projections, it anticipates "a similar result" (California Healthline, 5/16).

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