House passes partial ObamaCare repeal
The House voted along party lines on Friday to approve a budget reconciliation bill that would repeal parts of ObamaCare and halt federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
Only seven House Republicans voted against the partial ObamaCare repeal bill, though it has become a target of opposition from 2016 presidential candidates Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), as well as powerful groups such as Heritage Action for America.
The final total was 240-189. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), a vocal opponent of abortion, was the only Democrat to break ranks.
The seven Republican defectors were Reps. Ken Buck (Col.) Bob Dold (Ill.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Mark Meadows (N.C.) and Matt Salmon (Ariz.). Jones is facing a primary challenger, while Dold’s seat is one of the top targets for House Democrats in the 2016 cycle.
The bill would knock down key pillars of the president’s healthcare law, including the individual and employer mandates and the so-called Cadillac tax and the medical device tax. It would also halt funding to Planned Parenthood for one year.
“We have a responsibility to use every tool we have to dismantle this flawed healthcare scheme, and the bill before us today will do just that,” Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), who leads one of the committees charged with drafting the bill, said.
“This bill does not repeal all parts of ObamaCare but it certainly repeals egregious parts of it,” he added.
Republicans have hailed the rarely used reconciliation process as a way to make President Obama answer for his healthcare law. Under the Senate’s rules of reconciliation, the bill can make it to the president’s desk without being subject to a Democratic filibuster, forcing a veto.
“With this bill, we can finally confront the president with the reality confronting working families every day: higher costs and lower quality,” said Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who helped craft the reconciliation bill as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and who is expected to be elected Speaker next week.
But the bill’s fate is in question in the Senate.
Three Senate conservatives, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), have vowed to oppose the bill, accusing party leaders of abandoning their promise to fully repeal ObamaCare.
And with three other Republican senators voicing concerns about defunding Planned Parenthood, the opposition from some on the party’s right flank has the potential to sink the legislation.
That leaves no room for error for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who will have to keep the rest of his 54-member caucus united to secure the 51 votes needed for passage.
GOP leaders have spent months shaping a reconciliation bill that would roll back major pieces of ObamaCare while following the complex — and sometimes subjective — Senate rules.
But several conservatives, as well as outside groups like Heritage Action for America and Freedom Works, have condemned the bill for not going far enough.
Heritage Action held a key vote on the reconciliation bill, with a vote in favor of the bill working against the group’s scoring of a lawmaker’s record.
Despite pressure from outside conservative groups, no House Republicans had publicly come out against the bill before the vote.
Even the hard-right House Freedom Caucus didn’t decide to oppose it, Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) said Thursday. “There may be one or two of our members who don’t for some very personal reason they have, but I would say the vast majority of us will.”
Before the vote’s passage, House Republicans spent two hours railing against nearly every part of ObamaCare in floor speeches and making an argument that reconciliation was the best approach available to attacking ObamaCare.
“This bill does not accomplish everything we need to do to right the wrongs of ObamaCare, but it is a strong step in the right direction,” Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), who is co-chair of the House Doctors Caucus, said from the floor Friday.
“By using the process of reconciliation to repeal the most damaging effects of ObamaCare, we’re keeping our promise to the American people to protect them from this fatally flawed law,” Roe said.
The attacks on ObamaCare were met with forceful defenses from Democrats, who used their time to criticize the GOP as taking on ObamaCare while threatening to let the country default on its debt.
“Here we go again with again, with the 61st time repealing ObamaCare,” Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said from the floor. “Give us a break, it’s a waste of everybody’s time.”
“Essentially what we’re now facing is the dangerous bankruptcy of this majority party in the House of Representatives,” Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) added.
— This story was updated at 12:23 p.m.