House shoots down GOP effort to repeal individual insurance mandate

The House on Tuesday shot down legislation to repeal one of the most controversial elements of the Democrats' healthcare reform law: the requirement that most Americans purchase healthcare coverage.

Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), who offered the bill as an amendment to a larger tax bill for small businesses, said the insurance mandate "violates basic principles of freedom and individual choice."

"No American should be forced to purchase health insurance they don’t want and can’t afford," Camp, the senior Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, said just before the vote.

He wasn't persuasive enough. The vote was 230 to 187 to kill the amendment, with 21 Democrats and one Republican crossing party lines. 

Though opposed by candidate Barack Obama in the runup to the 2008 presidential election, the individual mandate evolved into a cornerstone of the Democrats' health reform law, enacted in March. The mandate takes effect in 2014. 

Supporters have argued that getting millions more Americans into insurance pools is necessary to keep coverage affordable for the sickest people. But critics, including a number of state attorneys general, have challenged the mandate's constitutionality.