In a nod to the right, House Republican leaders will once again seek to repeal President Obama’s healthcare law next week.
The decision, announced Wednesday by House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric CantorTrump allies warn: No compromise on immigration Chamber of Commerce overhauls lobbying operation Laura Ingraham under consideration for White House press secretary MORE (R-Va.), represents a shift by top Republicans in the lower chamber.
After the 2012 election, Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerNetanyahu: 'No question' about Trump's support for Israel The Hill's 12:30 Report Boehner compares Trump to Teddy Roosevelt MORE (R-Ohio) said ObamaCare is the “law of the land” while Cantor indicated Republicans should torpedo parts of the health overhaul.
But conservative rank-and-file members balked, saying freshman GOP members should have the opportunity to vote on a full repeal measure. Republican leaders agreed.
The repeal vote could give some on the right political cover to back the ObamaCare fix bill, which is opposed by Club for Growth. But it might not be enough.
The repeal bill is not going anywhere in a Democratic-controlled Senate. Democrats quickly accused the GOP of wasting time on debates that have been settled by the election. Next week’s vote will be the 37th time House Republicans have voted to repeal all or part of the health law.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) last month said freshmen should get the chance to support full repeal before casting votes that could be seen by constituents as “fixing” the law.
Mulvaney said Wednesday that he’s glad to see another repeal vote on the schedule. The vote could make it easier for freshmen to support narrower bills repealing specific parts of the law, such as its unpopular tax on medical devices or its Medicare cost-cutting board.
“You have to go home and explain — you voted to get rid of the medical device tax, but why haven’t you voted to repeal the whole thing?” he said.
Republicans have struggled since Obama’s reelection to find the right message on healthcare.
Many conservatives have taken an all-or-nothing approach to repeal, despite the practical impossibility of scrapping the whole law while Obama is in the White House.
Leadership, meanwhile, initially looked for a way to keep up the pressure on Democrats without appearing to be stuck in the political battles of 2010. But that tack didn’t fly, forcing BoehnerJohn BoehnerNetanyahu: 'No question' about Trump's support for Israel The Hill's 12:30 Report Boehner compares Trump to Teddy Roosevelt MORE and Cantor to pivot.
Tension in the GOP Conference was on full display in April when Cantor backed a bill to increase funding for the health law’s high-risk insurance pools by cutting its fund for prevention programs.
Cantor subsequently postponed the vote, sparking more headlines of divisiveness among House GOP lawmakers.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said another repeal vote won’t change his mind about the ObamaCare fix bill.
“No, I don’t think we ought to return to a bill that would expand parts of ObamaCare, whether or not we have the vote next week on full repeal,” he said. “The principle is the same: Do you want more federal government involvement in healthcare or less? And I don’t think it would be appropriate to return to that bill.”
Mulvaney also said he won’t support the Cantor bill if it comes back up after the repeal vote, although he said some lawmakers might come around.
“I think it might pick up [support from] people who want to vote for it,” Mulvaney said.
Cantor’s office has said it is still discussing the best way forward on the measure but did not respond to questions about whether it would return to the floor soon.
--This report was originally published at 12:01 p.m. and last updated at 8:27 p.m.