By Russell Berman - 04/24/13 05:49 PM EDT
House conservatives are clamoring for a floor vote on a full repeal of the 2010 healthcare overhaul, saying that freshman Republicans need an opportunity to tell their constituents they tried to scrap the law.
Frustration is mounting in the conservative ranks over the party leadership’s decision to bring up legislation that modifies but does not eliminate President Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement. The GOP bill, which shifts money to boost high-risk insurance pools, is facing stiff resistance, putting its passage on Wednesday is in doubt.
He said it’s troubling the first vote of the year on the healthcare law is a GOP bill to bolster the high-risk insurance pools.
“We haven’t had a repeal or replace vote this year, so why this is our first vote on anything having to do with ObamaCare is another difficulty,” he said.
After two years in which House Republicans voted on a near-weekly basis to repeal part of or all of the healthcare law, the GOP leadership shifted strategy following Obama’s reelection in November.
With repeal of the law seemingly impossible for the next four years, top Republicans are instead eyeing more modest measures that could change the law or its implementation.
But that’s not sufficient for many hard-liners in the conference who want the party to continue to push for full repeal.
“I want a chance as a freshman to do that, even if it’s just symbolic,” Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.) said.
The chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), said he has pushed the leadership to schedule a repeal vote.
“We need to get a vote on full repeal,” he said.
The bill on the floor Wednesday, titled the Helping Sick Americans Act, would shift money from what the Republicans have dubbed “a slush fund” in the law to increase funds available for the creation of high-risk insurance pools for people with pre-existing conditions. Because of cost overruns, the Obama administration has stopped accepting new applicants to the high-risk program. The GOP bill is part of Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s “Making Life Work” agenda.
Democrats oppose the measure, and Obama has threatened to veto it. Conservatives said it sent a mixed message to Republican voters bent on scrapping the law entirely.
“It’s not going anywhere in the Senate, but it’s going to send a message to our base that’s going to confuse the heck out of them,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said.
Cantor defended the bill on Wednesday morning as “the right thing to do.”
Democrats who opposed the legislation in committee, he said, “voted against allowing for the access to insurance coverage for pre-existing condition patients.”
“That’s not something I think they can go home and be proud of,” Cantor said, before pitching the bill to conservatives as an assault on the 2010 healthcare law they want to repeal.
“We’re trying to find solutions here,” Cantor said. “We don’t believe in ObamaCare, and we want to stop ObamaCare. And the president issued a [statement] last night [that] said he would veto the bill because he looked at it as a repeal of ObamaCare.
"But we want to stop ObamaCare, and that’s why we are going to the fund, the slush fund that Secretary [Kathleen] Sebelius is using for the implementation of the bill, and taking the monies from that fund to provide it for access to coverage for pre-existing condition patients. That’s the right thing to do.”
All nine conservatives on the panel indicated they were either voting no or leaning against the legislation.
“It’s pretty simple: We’re shifting money from one part of ObamaCare we don’t support to another part of ObamaCare we don’t support,” Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) said. “That’s a non-starter for me.”