Slap to Obama: GOP House votes to kill health law

Posted July 11, 2012

— Pressing an election-year point, Republicans pushed yet another bill through the House on Wednesday to repeal the nation's two-year-old health care law, a maneuver that forced Democrats to choose between President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement and a public that is persistently skeptical of its value.

The vote was 244-185, with five Democrats defectors siding with Republicans. North Carolina Congressmen Mike McIntyre and Larry Kissell were two of the five Democrats who voted for the repeal.

All other North Carolina House members voted along party lines, with Republicans pushing a repeal and Democrats supporting the law.

By Republican count, the vote marked the 33rd time in 18 months that the tea party-infused GOP majority has tried to eliminate, defund or otherwise scale back the program — opponents scornfully call it "Obamacare" — since the GOP took control of the House.

Repeal this year by Congress is doomed, since the Democratic-controlled Senate will never agree.

But Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam said before joining other Republicans in Wednesday's House vote: "Here's the good news. The voters get the last word in November. Stay tuned."

Nor was the vote in the House the only act of political theater during the day as campaign concerns increasingly crowded out bipartisan attempts at law-making in the Capitol.

One day after a campaigning Obama called on Congress to pass his proposal to extend tax cuts on all but the highest wage earners, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky offered to allow an immediate vote. "I can't see why Democrats wouldn't want to give him the chance" to sign the bill, he said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., countered by blocking an immediate vote. "We'll get to the tax issues. That way we'll be able to talk in more detail about Governor Romney's taxes," he said in a reference to Democratic campaign attacks on the GOP presidential candidate's overseas investment, the relatively low rate of income tax he is required to pay and his refusal thus far to release personal tax returns dating before 2010.

The health care debate roiled the campaign for the White House as well as Congress.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney drew boos from his largely black audience at the NAACP convention when he vowed to wipe out Obama's overhaul.

In the House, Republicans assailed the law as a job-killing threat to the economic recovery, but Democrats said repeal would eliminate consumer protections that already have affected millions.

"The intent of the president's health care law was to lower costs and to help create jobs. ... Instead, it is making our economy worse, driving up costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. He cited a study by a business group that estimated that one of the bill's taxes would cost up to 249,000 jobs, and a different estimate that a second tax would "put as many as 47,100 in jeopardy."

But House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said repeal would take away provisions that guarantee coverage for children with pre-existing medical conditions, reduce prescription drug costs for some seniors, provide for protective checks for patients of all ages and ensure rebates totaling more than $1 billion this summer for policy holders.

"What a Valentine to the health insurance industry," Pelosi said scornfully of the repeal measure. The party leader was a driving force behind the overhaul when she was speaker and Democrats held a majority.

At its core, the law will require nearly all Americans to purchase insurance beginning in 2014, a so-called individual mandate that Republicans seized on to make their case that the program amounted to a government takeover of health care. The law's constitutionality was upheld two weeks ago in a 5-4 Supreme Court opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts.

There was never any doubt that Republicans had the votes to pass the repeal in the House on Wednesday — or that it would die in the Senate, where Democrats possessed more than enough strength to block it.

That's what happened in January 2011, when the newly installed Republican majority first voted to repeal the law a few days after taking office.

In the months since, the GOP has taken repeated further swipes at the law, including votes to deny salaries to any government officials who enforce it, to abolish a board of officials charged with holding down Medicare costs in the future and to repeal a tax on medical devices.

With the exception of a few relatively modest changes accepted by the White House, all the rest have died in the Senate.

Some Democrats sought something of a middle ground.

Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., elected to his seat a few weeks ago, said the GOP-inspired repeal legislation was a charade and showed the House "cares more about political grandstanding than in getting things done." At the same time, he said, "We must work to improve the legislation," a bow to those who are less than enthusiastic about it, and a point he made during his recent campaign.

The five Democrats who sided with Republicans in the house vote were Reps. Larry Kissell and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, Jim Matheson of Utah, Mike Ross of Arkansas and Dan Boren of Oklahoma.

All five voted against the law's passage in 2010. Boren, Ross and McIntyre voted to repeal the law in January 2011, while the other two lawmakers voted to keep it in place.

In a statement issued after the vote, Matheson said, "We must scrap this flawed effort once and for all, start over, and do it right." Kissell's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Boehner said Republicans wanted to give Democrats who had previously voted to sustain the law a chance to reconsider, contending that "most Americans not only oppose this health care law — they support fully repealing it."

In a statement issued moments after the vote, McConnell said he would press for a vote in the Senate, as well.

Public reaction to the law has been consistently negative, but apart from conservative Republicans, it is less clear what support exists for repeal.

In a Washington Post/ABC News poll this month, 47 percent of those surveyed said they opposed the law, 47 percent said they supported it and 6 percent expressed no opinion.

Among those who said they were opposed or had no opinion, 33 percent said they wanted it all repealed, 30 percent said they wanted parts repealed and 34 percent said they wanted to wait and see what happens without repeal.


Associated Press Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and AP writers Alan Fram and Donna Cassata contributed to this story.


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  • Mon Account Jul 12, 2012

    lower health care costs already, a $124B deficit reduction over 10 years, 1 trillion over the next decade, and it's been creating jobs.

  • junk999 Jul 12, 2012

    "I thought it was free healthcare. Now its a tax on everyone? Make up your little mind."

    Reminds me of the Met Life commercial where Lucy and Charlie Brown say "it should be 5 cents!". Are you a child? No one ever claimed universal health care would be free. Health care isn't free now for anyone. Someone pays, and we pay more than any other country, for worse care overall. The issue is improving care, including everyone, and managing cost. The ACA is the only plan we have right now to do that. The GOP wants to do nothing, which would only allow a bad situation to get much worse.

  • junk999 Jul 12, 2012

    "I see nothing where people who oppose it want it strenghtened? ANd how can you possibly oppose something and not want it repealed? I don't see your logic behind this?"

    By strengthened I mean move to a single payer system, rather than using private insurance companies. Many polls have shown very clearly that a significant percentage oppose the current law because single payer makes so much more sense. The "logic" of opposing but not wanting it repealed wasn't mine, it was the results of the poll that I linked. If you take those who approve of the ACA plus those who don't want it repealed, that's a clear majority. The GOP House is ignoring the majority of citizens wishes, and playing political theater for their own purposes.

  • jjordan231179 Jul 12, 2012

    "We’re going to be “gifted” with a health care plan we are forced to purchase and taxed if we don’t! " = MEP

    I thought it was free healthcare. Now its a tax on everyone? Make up your little mind.

  • LambeauSouth Jul 12, 2012

    Hey MEP, thank Heritage, Romney and McCain

  • mep Jul 12, 2012

    We’re going to be “gifted” with a health care plan we are forced to purchase and taxed if we don’t! Which purportedly covers at least ten million more people (million still left without) without adding a single new doctor, but provides for 16,000 new IRS agents, written by a committee whose chairman says he doesn’t understand it, passed by a Congress in the middle of the night that didn’t read it but exempted themselves from it,and signed by a President who smokes, with funding administered by a treasury chief who didn’t pay his taxes, for which we’ll be taxed for four years before any benefits take effect, by a government which has already bankrupted Social Security and Medicare, all to be overseen by a surgeon general who is obese , and financed by a country that’s broke. YIPPY!

  • LambeauSouth Jul 12, 2012

    I see nothing where people who oppose it want it strenghtened? ANd how can you possibly oppose something and not want it repealed? I don't see your logic behind this?

    pretty much why Polls are bogus, it has everything to do with how the question is asked and who is asking. I was polled and then told at the end of the survey who it was, but it was pretty obvious by the questions who was asking

  • LambeauSouth Jul 12, 2012

    Down here we need companies that make profits. Company with no profit? How does that work- you want jobs other than the onesfor the city of Scranton, PA?

    what does Scranton PA have to do with anything?
    and Profit's "Down here" just mean you pay more
    so they can maintain "their" acceptable level of profits
    in otherwords, even if it doesn't cost them anymore to provide healthcare they will scream it does, remember these are the same companies that are holding onto their cash in lieu of job creation

  • UNC006 Jul 12, 2012

    UNC006 ok? who do these same businesses blame when they charge you more for services, wake up, it's about profits nothing more! LambeauSouth

    Down here we need companies that make profits. Company with no profit? How does that work- you want jobs other than the onesfor the city of Scranton, PA?

  • StateFan99 Jul 12, 2012

    . Repeal all of it 33% Repeal part of it 30% Wait and see 34%

    So, 47% support the ACA, and 47% oppose. But of those who say they oppose it 34% don't want it repealed, and 30% only want part of it repealed. As I said, many who oppose the current law want it strengthened and expanded, not eliminated. The GOP House is not acting according to the desires of the majority of Americans.

    I see nothing where people who oppose it want it strenghtened? ANd how can you possibly oppose something and not want it repealed? I don't see your logic behind this?