National News

Health care repeal vote to open a political year in Congress

Posted January 2, 2016

— It's been like a long-delayed New Year's resolution for Republicans. But 2016 will finally be the year when they put legislation on President Barack Obama's desk repealing his health care law.

The bill undoing the president's prized overhaul will be the first order of business when the House reconvenes this coming week, marking a sharply partisan start on Capitol Hill to a congressional year in which legislating may take a back seat to politics.

There are few areas of potential compromise between Obama and the GOP majority in the House and Senate in this election year, but plenty of opportunities for political haymaking during the presidential campaign season.

Obama will veto the health law repeal bill, which also would cut money for Planned Parenthood. The measure already has passed the Senate under special rules protecting it from Democratic obstruction. But that's the point for Republicans, who intend to schedule a veto override vote for Jan. 22, when anti-abortion activists hold their annual march in Washington to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in 1973 that legalized abortion.

Despite dozens of past votes to repeal the health law in full or in part, Republicans never before have succeeded in sending a full repeal bill to the White House. They insist that doing so will fulfill promises to their constituents while highlighting the clear choice facing voters in the November presidential election.

Every Republican candidate has pledged to undo the health law. The Democrats running for president would keep it in place.

"You're going to see us put a bill on the president's desk going after Obamacare and Planned Parenthood so we'll finally get a bill on his desk to veto," House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told conservative talk host Bill Bennett over the holidays.

"Then you're going to see the House Republican Conference, working with our senators, coming out with a bold agenda that we're going to lay out for the country, to say how we would do things very differently," Ryan said.

In the Senate, which reconvenes Jan. 11, a week later than the House, early action will include a vote on a proposal by Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican who is running for president, for an "audit" of the Federal Reserve. Democrats are likely to block it. But, like the health repeal bill in the House, the vote will answer conservative demands in an election year.

Also expected early in the Senate's year is legislation dealing with Syrian refugees, following House passage of a bill clamping down on the refugee program. Conservatives were angry when the year ended without the bill advancing. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky promised a vote, though without specifying whether it would be the House bill or something else.

The House Benghazi committee will continue its investigation of the attacks that killed four Americans in Libya in 2012, with an interview of former CIA Director David Petraeus on Jan. 6. That comes amid new Democratic accusations of political motives aimed at Hillary Clinton after the committee chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. for president. Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, was secretary of state at the time of the Benghazi attacks.

The bold agenda promised by Ryan after succeeding former Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, as speaker last fall will begin to take shape at a House-Senate GOP retreat this month in Baltimore. Thus far Ryan has pledged efforts to overhaul the tax system and offer a Republican alternative to the health overhaul.

In the Senate, McConnell's primary focus is protecting the handful of vulnerable Republican senators whose seats are at risk as Democrats fight to regain the Senate majority they lost a year ago. That means weighing the political risks and benefits of every potential vote to endangered incumbents in Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.

That could determine whether McConnell allows criminal justice overhaul legislation — the one issue cited by Obama and lawmakers of both parties as ripe for compromise — to come to the floor.

McConnell already has suggested that prospects for approval of Obama's long-sought Asia trade pact are dim, and the senator has ruled out major tax overhaul legislation as long as Obama is president.

McConnell could try to put his thumb on the scales of the presidential race with two GOP senators having emerged as leading contenders.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has been a thorn in McConnell's side, once calling the GOP leader a liar, and has frosty relations with his fellow senators. Rubio is on good terms with fellow lawmakers and has been endorsed by several of them. McConnell could schedule debate on an issue with the potential to favor Rubio politically over Cruz, such as National Security Agency wiretapping authority.

But McConnell insists he is staying out of it.

"We all have a big stake in having a nominee for president who can win, and that means carrying purple states, and I'm sure pulling for a nominee who can do that," McConnell told The Associated Press, refusing to elaborate on who might fit that description.


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  • bigwilliejohnson4phun Jan 2, 2016

    Under the ACA premiums have doubled and hurt the very people it was supposed to help. Quit absorbing the leftist narrative, and interject some objectivity into the discussion. Abolish all current health care insurance. Employers then could pay higher wages. People would get health care insurance like tey do utomobile insurance, to only cover the catastrophe's. HSA would be allowed to put money into an account for preventive care, tax free. Those who insurance companies wul dnot underwrite could be part of a SMALL medicare reform for government to cover he with exstng conditions or chronic conditions. The intelligent know the government is not the solution to any social problem they just make it worse. Repeal of Obamacare is an expectation among the the productive adults. I suspect Melanie is part of the Healthcare system where her salary is dependent upon government.

  • Greg Klayton Jan 2, 2016
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    Uhhh.... Actually, it's not. Both Congress and the President can be and have been obstructing legislative action. That's how the system works.

  • John Snow Jan 2, 2016
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    Hopefully that is sarcasm, because otherwise...

  • Greg Klayton Jan 2, 2016
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    "We are ranked 37th in the world around"

    The figure from wikipedia is so old and debunked. For one thing, there is no way possible to compare two different countries because the metrics vary so wildly. Every country's demographics including age distribution, national diet trends, ethnicity, cultural and even genetic variances make it impossible to measure something as ambiguous as "health care".

  • King Mopar Jan 2, 2016
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    We are ranked 37th in the world around health care, though everyone wants to rant about we have the best health care system in the world. It's bloated, over priced and those in power want to keep it that way, they are basically paid to do so. Some insurance companies are now opting away from higher priced hospitals, simply because they overcharge for services that are produced at other hospitals, with the same quality of care. Sooner or later, we are going to have to go to a single payer system, to keep the health industry, equipment costs, prescriptions, etc, in check.

  • Greg Klayton Jan 2, 2016
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    Perhaps the president shouldn't veto it. Obama is an obstructionist.

  • Robert Hartley Jan 2, 2016
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    Single payer is the way to go. Good job Republicans for seeing the light.

    The ACA is convoluted and doesn't please everyone (even though it tried) bc they tried a plan that Republicans wanted all the way back to Nixon and Kennedy fought against it.

    Obamacare is too complicated and inefficient and should be replaced by a simple single-payer system.

    Ty from a moderate and self described liberaltarian. Yes it's a thing, look it up.

  • Melanie Lane Jan 2, 2016
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    the republicans know that the president will veto it, more waste of money and time. they won't get it through.. we've had two elections with republicans running against this and they've lost on it. Get over it. I still don't understand why those who want to claim to be christians also want to deny health insurance to all but the wealthy.