House passes ObamaCare repeal, sending measure to president

Greg Nash

The House on Wednesday passed legislation that would repeal much of ObamaCare and defund Planned Parenthood for one year, sending the measure to President Obama’s desk. 

The bill passed by a vote of 240 to 181. Rep. Collin Peterson (Minn.), who opposes abortion, was the only Democrat to vote for the measure. Reps. Bob Dold (Ill.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.) and John Katko (R-N.Y.), who all hail from swing districts, were the only Republicans to vote against it.

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Obama is certain to veto the measure, but Republicans touted the vote as important step toward reversing the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of government it created. 

“We are confronting the president with the hard, honest truth: ObamaCare doesn’t work,” Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanMichigan Dems highlight Flint with unanimous opposition to CR Congress departs for recess until after Election Day House votes to delay Obama's overtime rule MORE (R-Wis.) said Wednesday. 

Republicans were able to get the repeal bill through the Senate, where Democrats had filibustered previous efforts, by using a fast-track process known as reconciliation that allows the bill to pass with a simple majority. 

Democrats denounced the measure on the House floor, repeatedly invoking the roughly 16 million people enrolled in ObamaCare programs. 

They pointed to an analysis of the repeal bill from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that found it would result in about 22 million fewer people having health insurance in the years after 2017.  

“I’ve never been able to understand the great zeal to take healthcare away from people,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.). 

Republicans say they are playing the long game with the repeal vote, hoping it will give voters a glimpse of how they would govern if they win back the White House in November. All of the GOP’s presidential hopefuls have expressed support for rolling back the law.

Democrats scoff at the idea of a Republican replacement for ObamaCare.

“If this were a serious effort, you’d at least have offered an alternative,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). 

Republicans have for years promised to replace the healthcare law but so far have not coalesced around a plan. 

Ryan says that’s about to change. He has asked his committee chairmen to work on crafting a single plan from the dozens of replacement bills that have been put forward in the House.

Republicans also plan to discuss an ObamaCare alternative at their retreat in Baltimore next week. 

Asked why a replacement was not put forward on Wednesday, Ryan responded: “Just wait.”

In the meantime, Republicans appear confident that they have the upper hand on the issue, with polls showing the law remains unpopular with the majority of the public.

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), a doctor and leading Republican voice on healthcare, on Tuesday criticized ObamaCare plans for their high deductibles, saying that while people have gained coverage, they often still cannot afford care. 

“Premiums are up, deductibles are up,” Price said. “I get calls from my former physician colleagues almost weekly telling me that patients in their office are now electing not to get care because they can’t meet their deductible.”

Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), a freshman lawmaker invited to speak at the GOP leadership press conference Wednesday, denounced the law’s expansion of Medicaid as “one of the most egregious parts of ObamaCare.”   

He said Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor, is traditionally for the “aged, blind and the disabled” and that ObamaCare wrongly expanded it to people who are “working age” and “able-bodied.”

The healthcare law allows states to cover people at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty line under Medicaid, which is about $32,000 per year for a family of four. Some states have rejected the expansion.

The reconciliation bill now headed to the White House does not repeal all of ObamaCare, because the rules under reconciliation forced Republicans to pick and choose. 

Still, the bill scraps some of the Affordable Care Act’s central elements, including the expansion of Medicaid and the federal subsidies that help people buy private coverage. The repeal of both items is delayed until 2018, which Republicans say would give them time to put a replacement in place.  

The measure also gets rid of the mandates for individuals to have health insurance and or employers to provide it, as well as repeals a range of taxes, such as those on medical devices and high-cost health insurance plans.  

Finally, the bill cuts off federal funding to Planned Parenthood for one year. The bill would also provide $235 million in extra funding for community health centers, which Republicans say could fill the gap left by Planned Parenthood.

“We’ve been at this, what, for five years now,” Ryan said Tuesday night on Fox News’s “Hannity.” “We finally found what I think is the smart strategy to be able to get a bill on [Obama’s] desk.”

—This story was updated at 7:40 p.m.