Second committee advances ObamaCare repeal legislation

The House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced GOP legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare, titled the American Health Care Act, on a party-line vote Thursday afternoon, after 27 hours of continuous debate.  

The committee markup lasted from Wednesday morning to Thursday afternoon before it was finally approved by a vote of 31-23. 

Democrats dragged out the hearing by proposing a slew of amendments, all of which were rejected by Republicans. 

The measure now goes to the House Budget Committee, with plans for a vote in the full House within several weeks. The House Ways and Means Committee passed its piece of the legislation early Thursday morning. 

{mosads}“Today, the House took a decisive step forward in fulfilling a promise to the American people that has been years in the making: repealing and replacing Obamacare with affordable, patient-centered reforms. After conducting an open and transparent markup, we are proud to put forth a plan that represents a Better Way for patients and families,” said Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.). 

Democrats put up a fight for more than 24 hours, arguing that the GOP plan would result in the loss of health insurance coverage for millions. 

They took issue with Republicans marking up the plan without a score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which will indicate how much the plan will cost and how many people could lose coverage under it. 

“I would think that people would want to know if their constituents would lose their insurance before they vote for this bill today,” said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.). 

Republicans downplayed the importance of having a CBO score before markup, saying one would be available before the floor vote. 

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) also argued that the CBO score on ObamaCare was off on its estimates, setting up an argument likely to be continued by Republicans if the numbers don’t come back positive. 
Republicans shot down amendments from Democrats that would have removed a provision defunding Planned Parenthood, kept ObamaCare’s patient protections and changed the title of the bill to “Republican Pay More For Less Act.” 
Members also debated the merits of changing Medicaid to a per-capita cap system, with Democrats arguing it would result in a loss of benefits for low-income people. 
Democrats weren’t the only ones offering amendments. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) introduced an amendment that would have sped up the rollback of the Medicaid expansion, though he later withdrew it. 
It would have frozen the expansion by the end of the year, rather than the bill’s current 2020 deadline, and continued the federal match to states until 2023. 
Barton said the amendment, if adopted, would go a long way toward gaining the support of conservatives who oppose the GOP plan. 
He declined to tell reporters if he would offer the amendment once the plan made it to the House floor. 
While the plan is on track to make it to the floor by the end of the month, it faces an uphill battle in the Senate. 
Several Republicans have come out against the bill, including some senators from expansion states who oppose the Medicaid rollback. 
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said the bill is “worse” than ObamaCare. 
“Insurance rates could go up and Americans could have even less control,” he told ABC News Thursday.

Asked about the criticism from Cotton that the House is moving too fast, Scalise said at a press conference after the markup that Americans can’t wait. 

“American families have waited long enough for relief from ObamaCare,” he said. “We have run for years on the promise that if we had this opportunity, we would actually move forward to repeal and replace ObamaCare.”

Walden said he thought the markup was the longest the committee has ever had without a break.

“I haven’t found anybody who can find a longer continuous markup in the Energy and Commerce Committee,” he said. “I’ll leave it up to the historians to do the record check. It sure felt like the longest one I’ve ever been to.” 
— This story was updated at 2:37 p.m.
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