The House will vote Thursday to repeal President Obama’s healthcare law — a move Republicans hope will open the door to narrower votes to target specific parts of the law.
GOP leaders scheduled the vote in a concession to conservative freshmen, who were not yet in Congress for the House’s previous 36 votes to repeal or defund all or part of the Affordable Care Act.
The White House budget office said Wednesday that Obama would veto the bill if it reached his desk, which it almost surely won’t given Democrats also control the Senate.
“The last thing the Congress should do is refight old political battles and take a massive step backward by repealing basic protections that provide security for the middle class,” the administration said. “Right now, the Congress needs to work together to focus on the economy and creating jobs.”
Republican leaders scheduled the repeal vote after failing to put together enough GOP support for an earlier measure that would have shifted money from one part of ObamaCare to another.
Conservatives said freshman members needed a chance to go on the record supporting full repeal before they voted for anything that might look like “fixing” the healthcare law — and leadership is giving them that chance.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), cast Thursday’s vote as part of an effort to build momentum against the law.
“President Obama has already signed legislation repealing part of his law on seven occasions, and his allies on Capitol Hill acknowledge that implementing it will be a ‘train wreck,’" Steel said in a statement. “We are continuing to build support and momentum for completely repealing the law, because it will raise costs, deny Americans’ access to health care, and hurt our economy.”
The White House has, in fact, agreed to repeal certain parts of the Affordable Care Act. The first was a minor but controversial tax reporting provision that proved deeply unpopular with small businesses.
The administration also agreed to formally repeal the CLASS program, which had been intended to provide insurance for long-term care, after giving up on trying to implement the provision.
Republicans are hoping to pressure Democrats into votes on repealing other, higher-profile parts of the law. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has singled out the law’s tax on medical devices and a controversial board tasked with slowing the growth in Medicare spending.
Republicans also want to put Democrats in a tight spot ahead of the 2014 midterms.
The biggest provisions of the law are set to come into effect between October and the end of the year, and Democrats are openly worried that a rocky implementation could hurt the party’s electoral prospects in 2014.
House Republicans hope Thursday’s repeal vote will put Democrats on the defensive, as they’ll be forced to register their support for keeping the law intact.
Democrats criticized the vote as a waste of time and said the substance of the law won’t hurt them in 2014.
“It’s not only a vote that’s a waste of time. It’s a vote to take away affordable quality benefits that the American people are enjoying right now,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said in a statement.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched automated calls on Wednesday against 10 potentially vulnerable Republicans.
“Once again, the Republican Congress is wasting taxpayer dollars and trying to put insurance companies back in charge of our care,” DCCC Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “The consequences are clear: fewer protections for consumers, more health-care related bankruptcies and more money for the insurance companies.”
Repealing the healthcare law would increase the federal deficit, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The office didn’t provide a specific number for the latest repeal bill, but its most recent estimate put the cost of repeal at $109 billion over 10 years.
The latest repeal bill was sponsored by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). The vote itself isn’t likely to provide many surprises: Most Democrats and Republicans are already on the record, thanks to the myriad repeal votes in the last Congress, and most freshmen have already made their positions on the law clear.