House Votes To Repeal Obamacare Again
Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act for what was, according to one count, the 56th time:
WASHINGTON — The House passed a bill on Tuesday to repeal the Affordable Care Act for the first time in the new Congress, but Democrats appeared to show more zeal in defending the law than Republicans did in trying to get rid of it.
The measure goes now to the Senate, where the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, has said that the chamber will vote on legislation repealing the health law but has not announced a schedule.
Republicans in both chambers are divided over how to replace the law and how to respond if the Supreme Court upholds a challenge to insurance subsidies now being provided to millions of people under the law.
The House vote, 239 to 186, generally followed party lines. No Democrats voted for repeal. Three Republicans — Representatives Robert Dold of Illinois, John Katko of upstate New York and Bruce Poliquin of Maine — voted against the bill.
Despite an explicit veto threat from President Obama, Republicans said the vote on Tuesday was necessary to give new House members a chance to take a stand on the health law, which most Republicans had campaigned against. Freshman Republicans like Representatives Jody Hice of Georgia and Mia Love of Utah were among the most outspoken critics of the law on Tuesday.
Democrats said it was the 56th time since 2011 that the House had voted to repeal or undermine some or all of the law, which was adopted in 2010 without any Republican votes.
This time the repeal vote was different because millions of Americans have gained coverage through provisions of the law that expanded eligibility forMedicaid and subsidized private insurance for low- and middle-income people.
The chief sponsor of the repeal bill, Representative Bradley Byrne, Republican of Alabama, said opinion polls showed that a majority of Americans had unfavorable views of the law.
“I don’t believe Obamacare can be fixed through piecemeal reforms,” Mr. Byrne said. “The only way to get rid of this harmful law is to repeal Obamacare in its entirety.”
Previous efforts by the House to repeal the Affordable Care Act have gone nowhere, of course, because they died in the Democratic controlled Senate. In that case, the bill in question would either simply be ignored by Senate leadership, in which case there would never even be a vote on it, or it would be tabled via a party-line vote that only requires a simple majority. With the new Republican majority that’s no longer possible, but that doesn’t mean that the bill is any more likely to get to the President’s desk. There will be at least some form of debate in the Senate on the bill and a vote, but due to the Senate’s filibuster rules and the fact that it’s unlikely that any Democrats will cross party lines to support the bill so the bill will likely die during a cloture vote when it fails to get past the sixty vote threshold. And, of course, even if the Republicans in the Senate somehow find a way to get around the 60 vote requirement, the bill will be vetoed and there is not a sufficient majority in either House to override a Presidential veto. Therefore, even though the Senate is now under GOP control this vote to repeal the PPACA is still just as symbolic, and some would say pointless, as it was when the House GOP did it fifty-five times between January 2011 and December 2014. The ultimate result, however, will be exactly the same.
Even during the course of this debate, though, many have noted that Republicans may not be able to avoid the question of providing an alternative to, or proposing reforms to, the Affordable Care Act for very much longer. One of the key moments in that regard will come early next month when the Supreme Court hears oral argument in King v. Burwell, the case challenging Internal Revenue Service rules that allow the tax credits provided for in the law to be granted to people who purchase insurance under both health care exchanges set up by individual states and the exchanges set up by the Federal Government. The Plaintiff’s in King have argued that the statute as written only authorizes tax credits for insurance purchased via the state based exchanges and, therefore, that the IRS rule improperly applies the law. Should the Supreme Court accept the Plaintiff’s argument then millions of people will find themselves with hugely inflated medical insurance bills unless Congress does something to reform the law. Recent polling has indicated that the public would overwhelmingly favor Congress acting to restore the subsidies if the Supreme Court rules for the Plaintiffs, but at first glance it seems unlikely that Republicans in Congress would be inclined to do that. Whether they’d change their minds after a Supreme Court decision remains to be seen, but at the very least a decision in favor of the Plaintiffs in Burwell would increase pressure on the GOP to do more than just talk about repealing the law, which quite obviously is not going to happen as long as President Obama is in office.
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