House Begins Debate on Repealing Reform Law, Prepares for Final Vote
On Tuesday, the House began debating legislation (HR 2) that would repeal the federal health reform law, Politico reports (Budoff Brown/Haberkorn, Politico, 1/18).
The bill is expected to pass easily but it is unlikely to proceed in the Democrat-controlled Senate. President Obama also has promised to veto the bill if it reaches his desk (Adamy, Wall Street Journal, 1/18).
During debate of the bill, Republicans continued their frequent criticisms of the law, saying that it would increase the deficit and that the government should not force people to purchase health insurance (Bunis, CQ HealthBeat, 1/18).
In addition, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) suggested Senate Democrats should allow a vote on the measure in the Senate. Cantor said that if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) "is so confident that the repeal vote should die in the Senate then he should bring it up for a vote." Jon Summers, a spokesperson for Reid, said, "Not only would repeal not pass [the Senate], but according to a poll by [the Associated Press] over the weekend, three out of four people don't want it to."
Meanwhile, Democrats considered the repeal debate a second chance to convey the law's benefits to the public. Lawmakers told stories of constituents who they said would suffer if the health overhaul is repealed (Politico, 1/18).
Despite disagreement over the law, the debate was "free of the apocalyptic rhetoric that defined last year's campaigns," according to the Washington Post. The Post reports that the more restrained debate could reflect a move toward calmer discourse among lawmakers (Murray/Aizenman, Washington Post, 1/19).
After completing debate, the House expects to vote on the repeal measure sometime on Wednesday afternoon (Bunis, CQ HealthBeat, 1/18).
Off the House Floor
Proponents of the overhaul also continued the discussion outside of Congress.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) led a press conference Tuesday evening that featured individuals who benefited from the law, while HHS yesterday defended an agency report showing that as many as 129 million U.S. residents younger than age 65 have a pre-existing condition that could cause them to be rejected or charged higher rates by health insurers (Politico, 1/18). The reform law includes provisions that preclude insurers from denying individuals coverage because of pre-existing conditions (California Healthline, 1/18).
House Democrats Henry Waxman (Calif.) and Frank Pallone (N.J.) released a report showing how a repeal would affect individuals in different congressional districts (Herszenhorn, "The Caucus," New York Times, 1/18). AARP also issued a letter supporting certain provisions in the reform law (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 1/18).
Democrats Willing To Consider Reform Changes
Although the Obama administration opposes the repeal, officials said recently that the White House is "open" to GOP suggestions for improving the reform law.
The Post reports that the administration's openness is a "marked shift" from last year when it admonished Republicans for rebuking certain overhaul provisions (Bacon, Washington Post, 1/18).
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) echoed those sentiments, saying that Democrats are willing to work with Republicans to make "improvements" to the health reform law. "We are open to better solutions," Hoyer said, adding, "To the extent that Republicans come up with ideas that we think are improvements or are better we certainly look forward to working together on those issues" (Ryan, "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 1/18).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.