House Approves Bill To Repeal Health Reform, Plans Next Steps
Three members of the Democratic caucus who opposed the overhaul in March 2010 -- Reps. Dan Boren (Okla.), Mike McIntyre (N.C.) and Mike Ross (Ark.) -- joined all 242 GOP members in favor of the repeal (Adamy/Bendavid, Wall Street Journal, 1/20).
Wednesday's vote was widely considered to be symbolic as the repeal bill has little chance of being considered in the Democratic-controlled Senate, the Washington Post reports. President Obama also has promised to veto the bill if it reaches his desk.
The vote came at the end of a two-day debate on the bill, during which Republicans and Democrats sought to highlight the reform law's benefits and shortcomings (Goldstein/Aizenman, Washington Post, 1/20).
Lawmakers Express Concerns but Strive for Common Ground
According to the New York Times, Republicans used debate over the repeal bill to argue that the law is a government intrusion that would cause employers to drop insurance coverage for workers, create an unsustainable entitlement program, put costly burdens on states and the federal government and impede on the physician-patient relationship.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, "Repeal means paving the way for better solutions that will lower the cost without destroying jobs or bankrupting our government" (Herszenhorn/Pear, New York Times, 1/19).
Meanwhile, Democrats took the debate as a second opportunity to highlight the law's benefits to consumers, citing stories of constituents who have benefited in recent months from continued and improved access to insurance coverage and prescription medications, the Post reports.
Democrats also expressed willingness to work with the GOP to improve the overhaul. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) noted, "All important bills -- Social Security, Medicare, civil rights laws of the 1960s -- they needed to be tweaked," adding, "Let us put our heads together and figure out what makes sense."
However, Democrats expressed skepticism that the GOP could offer better plans that would not deepen federal deficits, citing the recent analysis from the Congressional Budget Office that concluded otherwise, the Post reports. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) disagreed, rejecting CBO's analysis as flawed because the reform law "is riddled with double-counting and gimmicks" (Washington Post, 1/20).
GOP To Move Forward Despite Unfavorable Prospects
Although the repeal bill is "destined to die" in the Senate, House Republicans are poised to wield their newly acquired power in the chamber to launch a long-term strategy to dismantle the law, Politico reports (Haberkorn/Budoff Brown, Politico, 1/19). Policy experts say that GOP members and their supporters are more likely to favor smaller, piecemeal measures than a larger package that would try to resolve their issues with the law at once (Nather, Politico, 1/20).
On Thursday, the House is expected to approve a resolution (HR 9) that would guide key committees on how to develop the smaller revisions and alternatives, fulfilling Republicans' midterm election campaign pledge to "repeal and replace" the reform law (Ethridge, CQ Today, 1/18). According to the AP/Chicago Tribune, four House committees -- the Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, Education and Workforce, and Judiciary -- will be tasked with introducing the replacement bills.
The panels will attempt to compromise the law by first addressing some of the law's unpopular provisions, such as the 1099 tax-reporting provision, and replace them with GOP-favored initiatives like medical malpractice laws (AP/Chicago Tribune, 1/20).
Republicans also have promised to focus on the cost of the law, its effect on states and the individual coverage mandate (Politico, 1/19).
House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said, "We will begin ... to implement step-by-step, common-sense reforms that actually lower the cost of health care and actually respect the doctor-patient relationship" (AP/Chicago Tribune, 1/20).
In addition, the GOP leaders of several prominent House committees plan to conduct hearings that would require Obama administration officials to defend the law and answer questions the GOP believes have been ignored. Republicans also will attempt to withhold funding for as many provisions as possible, beginning with stop-gap funding that expires in March (Budoff Brown, Politico, 1/17).
No Timeline for Replacement Legislation
Hours before the House approved the bill to repeal the health reform law, Boehner said that the Republican leaders of the four committees are not working under a timeline to introduce replacement legislation to the law, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports. "I don't know that we need artificial deadlines set up for the committees," he said, adding, "We expect them to act in an official way, allowing all of their members on their committees to be heard -- Democrats and Republicans" (Millman, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 1/19).
McConnell Promises Senate Vote
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will seek to force the upper chamber to vote on the House-approved repeal bill, according to a GOP Senate leadership aide, Roll Call reports. The aide said that Senate Republican leaders "are discussing how they are going to do it, but they haven't made a decision," adding that it likely will happen "in the near future."
After the House passed the bill on Wednesday, McConnell congratulated his House Republican colleagues, adding, "I hope the Senate will soon follow suit with a vote of its own. The Democratic leadership in the Senate doesn't want to vote on this bill. But I assure you, we will" (Stanton, Roll Call, 1/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.