The newly installed Republican-majority House of Representatives has passed its largely symbolic repeal of President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform — symbolic since it’ll be dead in its tracks in the Senate or if by some miracle the Senate voted to agree it would be dead in its tracks with Obama’s veto pen.
But be sure to stay tuned: health care reform opponents can still kill the legislation but basically “starving” key components of funding in coming months. But today was when the GOP — realizing the act is symbolic — was keeping a promise to its conservative base:
The House on Wednesday voted to repeal the Democrats’ landmark health care overhaul, in a largely symbolic step that the new Republican majority said marked the beginning of an all-out effort to dismantle President Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement.
Leaders of the Democratic-controlled Senate have said that they will not act on the repeal measure, effectively scuttling it.
The House vote was 245 to 189 to repeal the law, with three Democrats joining all Republicans in the majority.
While conceding the reality that the measure would not advance in the Senate, House Republicans said they would still press ahead with their “repeal and replace” strategy. The next steps, however, will be much more difficult, as they try to forge consensus on alternatives to the new law emphasizing “free market solutions” to control health costs and expand coverage.
Republicans have sketched their ideas without giving many details.
This continues to be a problem with the Republicans that could prove more troublesome for the party in coming months as it becomes clear that they are sharing more power now with the Executive Branch: it needs to be a party that offers some specific affirmative ideas. Opposition will please its base but a steady mantra of opposition without specifics could lead to independent voter defections:
Even as four committees begin drafting legislation, Republicans said they would seek other ways to stop the overhaul, by choking off money needed to carry it out and by pursuing legislation to undo specific provisions, including its linchpin requirement that most employers help pay to insure their workers.
But with Democrats and the Obama administration staunchly defending the health care law, Republicans could face pressure to turn their attention to areas where there is greater chance of compromise as voters watch for results from the newly divided government.
Lawmakers clashed over the repeal proposal for five hours on the House floor on Wednesday, in a striking reprise of the debate that engulfed Capitol Hill from the spring of 2009 until March 2010 when Mr. Obama signed the health care law.
The debate was passionate — and in one instance …at variance…with all the talk about new civility:
On Jan. 19, the Republican-controlled House voted 245 to 189 to repeal health care reform. The party line vote capped a vigorous debate in which Republicans vilified the health care law and Democrats exalted it, reports CBS News Congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes.
“When you order every American to buy health insurance whether they want it, need it or not, that’s a government takeover of healthcare,” said Rep. Mike Pence, R-Indiana, on the floor.
“Really? Who is taking over what health care plan? Who? We are offering people tax incentives, small businesses tax incentives to go buy private insurance plans,” answered Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-New York.
But a tentative agreement to tone down the rhetoric was shattered when one Democrat likened Republican claims about the law to Nazi propaganda.
“You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie and eventually people believe it,” said Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tennessee. “The Germans said enough about the Jews and people believed it and you had the Holocaust.”
The most vocal critics of the law were the dozens of new Republican members who made repeal a top campaign promise.
GOP political maven Karl Rove, in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, says this is only the beginning:
The GOP would have deeply damaged its credibility if it failed to follow through on its pledge.
Moreover, the fight against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, of which this week’s vote is but the opening round, once again focuses public attention on the law’s flaws. Virtually every claim the Obama administration has made on its behalf is turning out to be untrue. (Recall “If you like your current [health-care] plan, you will be able to keep it.”) Or it wasn’t credible to start with, such as the claim by the Office of Management and Budget that the bill will cut the deficit. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll this week showed that 62% see it as increasing the deficit, 54% think it’ll hurt the economy, and 46% think the law will cost jobs. When Republicans have winning arguments, they should keep pressing them.
The House vote also gives the GOP momentum to make ObamaCare a principal issue in the 2012 election. That can’t make vulnerable House Democrats who barely survived last fall’s campaign, or the 24 Democratic senators up in 2012 (many in red states), happy. Nor can it be to the advantage of the president, who will also be on the ballot.
The longer this issue is around, the worse it’s likely to be for Democrats. This year’s ObamaCare-mandated Medicare cuts are geometrically larger than last year’s. Dissatisfaction among health-care providers will continue rising as the new health-care law adversely affects their profession. The concerns of business leaders will become more pronounced as the law’s mandates limit their choices while increasing their costs. And consumer discontent will grow as promised declines in insurance premiums and health-care costs don’t materialize.
(There’s a lot more so go to the link to read it in its entirety).
The Atlantic’s Chris Good writes:
Politically, on the other hand…expect House Republicans to celebrate making good on a campaign promise to do all they could to repeal the bill. On Wednesday, the GOP’s House campaign arm had already blasted an e-mail out to supporters saying “We Kept Our Promise” and raising money off tonight’s vote. At least one liberal group, meanwhile, will release a TV ad attacking Republicans soon after the vote is held.
Health care can resurface as a campaign issue, both because 1) it’s Obama’s signature policy initiative, and he will have to defend it in the 2012 White House race, and 2) because if Republicans take the Senate and White House in 2012, it’s possible they will repeal health care–that this bill will pass in the next Congress, and that a Republican president will sign it.
So, after tonight’s vote, repeal will hit the back-burner in Congress, transferring all of its weight onto the platform of campaign politics.
Republicans may have a better chance of success in court.
Some 25 other states have joined Florida’s lawsuit in federal court challenging the health care law – six signed on Tuesday – and Virginia is pressing a separate case. All those states echo a key Republican argument in contending that the law’s requirement that nearly everyone buy insurance by 2014 or face penalties is unconstitutional.
In December, federal District Court Judge Henry Hudson ruled that a person can’t be forced to buy coverage; the Obama administration is appealing. But Virginia, which filed the suit, also is appealing, saying that Hudson should have overturned the entire law. The case is expected to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
First, though, some Democrats in Congress say they’re open to some change: “We will certainly look at any good ideas that come down,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
But they also warn that the law is a carefully crafted balancing act, and removing one piece could jeopardize the success of another.
For instance, Republicans are eager to overturn the individual mandate, but would keep the terms barring insurers from rejecting people with pre-existing conditions.
Doing that, though, risks sending premiums higher, since in theory healthy people would be less inclined to buy coverage while the number of people needing coverage would increase.
“The argument for a mandate is that if you’re going to lower costs, improve access and improve the quality of care, you have to increase the risk pool,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Several bipartisan discussions are under way on Capitol Hill about possible changes in the law, but without strong support from the administration they are expected to languish.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.