By Molly K. Hooper - 05/27/10 11:32 PM EDT
House Republican leaders introduced a bill Thursday to repeal and replace the sweeping healthcare law adopted in late March.
According to Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the measure would repeal the current law and replace it with the alternative the minority party offered to the original healthcare legislation last November.
Chances are slim Republicans could get their measure to the floor, given the Democratic majorities in the chamber, but it could make a useful campaign tool for the party.
The vote on healthcare reform has become a political issue in a year rife with anti-incumbent sentiment.
Tea Party activists opposed the legislation and protested on Capitol Hill during the March vote, shouting, “Kill the bill.”
Several Democratic candidates in conservative-leaning districts have said they would not have voted for the bill, while unions are withholding support from some Democratic incumbents who voted against the legislation.
A Gallup poll taken earlier this month found that healthcare is still in the Top Five list of voters’ concerns. Another Gallup poll found that voters are “no less concerned about paying the costs of a serious illness or accident, or normal healthcare costs, than they were last year.”
In all, 20 GOP lawmakers co-sponsored the repeal-and-replace bill, including House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio), Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), GOP conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) and Blunt.
Rep. Wally Herger (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Healthcare, formally submitted the bill.
A Herger aide explained the legislation would repeal the entire law but would provide protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
“[It] would prevent an insurance company from denying new coverage to someone with prior coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition. So if you lose the health insurance because you lose your job, move, get divorced or just want to change plans, you are protected,” Herger spokesman Matt Lavoie said.
Democrats laughed off the GOP effort to repeal the law.
An aide for Assistant to the Speaker Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said that the “repeal Repubs” would create a boon for the health insurance industry.
“Repeal Repubs are out of step with the majority of Americans who want to give the reform bill a chance to work. If the GOP gets their way, they would actually strip individuals and families of important rights and benefits and add to the deficit they created. This is a healthcare bill only insurance companies would love,” Van Hollen spokesman Doug Thornell said.
Asked of the chances the measure would move through the House, Herger’s Democratic counterpart, Rep. Pete Stark (Calif.), responded, “Like a prayer in hell.”
Republicans say their bill would reduce costs, increase access and create transparency and more competition in the system.
Blunt claimed that of all the healthcare measures scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), this measure is “the only thing that anybody offered that the Congressional Budget Office said would decrease the cost of insurance for everybody.”
Asked why leaders didn’t submit a measure solely to repeal the massive entitlement law, Blunt responded, “Then you’d be asking, ‘Why don’t you have any ideas?’ ”
At least one Republican has a problem with his leadership offering a repeal-and-replace bill.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said in an interview with The Hill that Republicans “should be for 100 percent repeal. The replacement component of it should be a separate question because it blurs the issue; once you tie a comprehensive replacement to a repeal bill, you’ve guaranteed it’s going to bog down and the American people that are sick of backroom deals are going to ask a whole lot of questions that we are going to have to answer.”
King called ObamaCare a “malignant tumor that has metastasized as we speak.”
Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.), a co-sponsor of Herger’s measure, disagreed.
“We have got to understand that the Senate is not going to be in Republican hands, nor is the White House until hopefully 2012, so the political reality is we have to operate within reality — and we will go as far as we can to repeal the most egregious parts of the bill and replace them with good reforms,” Boustany explained.