'Constitutional, But Not Wise': House Strikes Down ObamaCare 244-185
Less than two weeks after the Supreme Court upheld ObamaCare as constitutional, House Republicans sent a signal that the ruling doesn't mean the healthcare law must be -- or will be -- the law of the land.
Rushed through the House in the first week lawmakers were back in session since the high court ruling, the Repeal of ObamaCare Act passed 244-185. Five Democrats crossed over to strike down the healthcare law: Blue Dog Reps. Mike Ross (Ark.), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Larry Kissell (N.C.), Dan Boren (Okla.), and Jim Matheson (Utah). No Republicans defected.
The House also rejected 248-180 an amendment by Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) that would have required members who voted to repeal ObamaCare to give up their congressional health benefits; nine Democrats voted against the amendment. "When Congress writes a law we should all live by it," Andrews said.
Majority Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who introduced the bill with 162 co-sponsors, said that he called the vote so that every member would be on record regarding where he or she stood on the healthcare law in the wake of the ruling.
It was also, Cantor said, to demonstrate "that we are committed to taking this flawed law off the books."
"We now know that the Supreme Court has spoken. It is a tax," Cantor said. "...We can start over and we can tell the American people we are on your side."
To the Andrews amendment, Cantor said, "We on this side of the aisle care about the healthcare of the American people. That's why we're here. ...It is not about members of Congress. This is a dire situation for millions of Americans."
"The American people don't want it," Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said on the floor. "The longer people have to know this bill, the more intense they are in wanting to see it repealed. ...It's constitutional, but it is not wise."
Democratic leaders took umbrage at their signature 2010 policy achievement being under legislative assault yet once more. "What a valentine to the health insurance industry," said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), going point-by-point through a checklist titled "GOP taking away from Americans."
Claiming that ObamaCare creates 4 million jobs and reduces the deficit, Pelosi urged a vote against "this useless bill to nowhere that does serious damage to the health and economic well-being of America's families."
"Americans are ready to move on, yet here we are again," said Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), telling Republicans to end their "relentless obsession" with repeal. "It's a waste of time because the Republican majority knows it would not be passed by the Senate and would not be signed by the president."
House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (D-Conn.) gave his GOP colleagues "credit for their persistence," but accused them of "callous indifference" and said they "would rather see the president fail than the nation succeed."
Republicans said it was simply their duty to bring repeal to the floor again.
"The numbers keep changing and it simply does not add up," said Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), noting estimates of $900 billion two years ago and $2 trillion today. "How do we fund this?"
As Democrats said children with diabetes, women with breast cancer and men with prostate cancer would be left out in the cold by repeal, Scott offered a personal example of what might happen if the law is left in place.
Scott talked about the possibility of a 15-member Independent Patient Advisory Board making Medicare decisions for his 92-year-old grandfather. "That's wrong," he said.
Republican Conference Vice-Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), noting that she is raising a child with special needs and has heard concerns about future care from within the disabled community, said the "longer lines, fewer doctors, lower quality of care" produced by ObamaCare require immediate action.
"If we don't repeal this law, the consequences are going to be disastrous," McMorris Rodgers said.
Democrats protested that Republicans had brought ObamaCare repeal to the floor 30 times, with this being the second vote for total repeal. "Welcome to Groundhog Day in the House of Representatives!" exclaimed Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).
"Fortunately, the other body rejected this ill-fated effort the first 30 times and this time will be no different," said Assistant Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.), calling the vote a "partisan charade."
However, House Republican leadership noted yesterday that the GOP has conducted 32 votes to repeal, defund, or dismantle ObamaCare -- and today's was No. 33.
This has resulted in the halting of three programs and the repeal or funding slashes for seven ObamaCare provisions, including reducing funding for the controversial IPAB board and repealing 1099 tax-reporting requirements on small businesses.
The White House vowed yesterday to veto the bill, should it somehow get through the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Yet even though the official title of Cantor's bill in the congressional record is the Repeal of Obamacare Act, the Office of Management and Budget called it "Repealing the Affordable Care Act" instead.
"The Administration strongly opposes House passage of H.R. 6079 because it would cost millions of hard-working middle class families the security of affordable health coverage and care they deserve," states the veto threat. "It would increase the deficit and detract from the work the Congress needs to do to focus on the economy and create jobs."
The House recessed after the early afternoon final debate on the measure so that Democratic leaders could meet with President Obama in the Oval Office. Attendees included Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Pelosi, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Hoyer, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Clyburn, Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
The White House said the closed-door meeting was to "discuss their legislative agenda for the coming months and his proposals to provide small businesses new incentives to grow and hire, encourage companies to create jobs here at home, and ensure that middle class families don’t see a massive tax hike at the end of the year."
On the House floor, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), lamenting that there are only 44 working days left in this Congress, said "interestingly enough, we're not going to deal with important things."
Wielding a wooden gavel that he said was tied to ObamaCare passage and an appearance on The Daily Show, Dingell promised to lend it to Republicans "if you promise to use it for something good."
"I say shame," Dingell continued past his allotted time. "You're wasting the time of the American people. You're wasting the time of the Congress."
"The voters get the last word in November," said Rep. Pete Roskam (R-Ill.). "Stay tuned."