The House on Tuesday failed to override President Obama’s veto of legislation that would have repealed much of ObamaCare and defunded Planned Parenthood.
The result was expected, given that an override would have required Democratic support to succeed, but Republicans praised the vote as showing what could happen next year if their party wins back the White House.
Republicans got the bill to the president’s desk under the process known as reconciliation, which allowed the measure to bypass a filibuster and clear the Senate with 51 votes.
“We have now forged a path that is a clear path to repealing ObamaCare without 60 votes in the Senate,” Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanGOP waiting to hear from Trump on ObamaCare Five takeaways from Trump's inauguration Hispanic Caucus members slam Trump after inaugural address MORE (R-Wis.) said Tuesday. “So what we are proving today is that if we have a Republican president next year, we will repeal ObamaCare and we will replace ObamaCare.”
Democrats denounced the vote but agreed that it creates an election-year contrast.
“It certainly does indicate the stakes in the 2016 elections,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who led Democrats in the floor debate over the measure.
Still, Democrats noted that if the repeal measure had actually become law, Republicans would have been confronted more directly with the question of how to replace ObamaCare and deal with the millions of people who would lose health coverage.
While some Republican lawmakers have put forward replacement plans, GOP leadership has not brought any plan to the floor since Republicans took over the House in 2011.
“They said, ‘We’re going to repeal this and we’re going to replace it,’” Van Hollen said. “How many times have we voted to replace it? Zero. Zero times to replace it.”
Ryan says that House Republicans will finally put forward a replacement this year, though he has stopped short of committing to putting it in legislative language or holding a vote on it.
“This year, we will show the country how we would replace ObamaCare with a true patient-centered system,” Ryan said Tuesday.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that on Thursday the party will begin rolling out “task forces” to work on Republican solutions.
Democrats repeatedly highlighted on Tuesday that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that the repeal bill would lead to about 22 million fewer people having health insurance in the years after 2017.
House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.), a leading Republican voice on healthcare, countered that the CBO did not take into account that Republicans would come up with a replacement so that not all of those people would lose their coverage, and that the measure delays the repeal of ObamaCare provisions to 2018 to allow time for a replacement.
Price criticized the deductibles under ObamaCare plans, which tend to be much higher than those for employer-sponsored health plans, requiring people need to pay hefty sums out of pocket before coverage kicks in.
“Deductibles have gone up incredibly,” Price said. “Our friends on the other side don’t talk about that.”
Price, like several other Republican lawmakers, acknowledged that people had gained coverage under the law, but said the gains are outweighed by the costs.
“You may have health coverage but you don’t have any healthcare,” Price said, referring to the high deductibles.
Added Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.): “Access might be up, because Americans are forced to buy into the president’s healthcare law, but so are costs.”
The reconciliation bill that Obama vetoed also would have cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood for one year. It would have provided $235 million in extra funding for community health centers, which Republicans said would fill the gap left in the healthcare system.
Democrats counter that many community health centers are already at capacity and could not absorb the extra patients. They invoked a Texas grand jury last month finding no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood and instead indicting the anti-abortion activists behind videos targeting the group.
Van Hollen said the Republican Party “apparently wants to ignore the facts that we learned from the Texas grand jury.”