WASHINGTON – As expected,the House of Representatives voted Wednesday to repeal what Republicans are calling the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act,but the Senate is unlikely to agree.
The House began to dismantle the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,the health care bill passed last year,on Thursday by adopting a resolution sponsored by Rep. David Dreier,R-Calif. The House assigned several key committees to draft legislation to replace the current plan with bills that meet 12 goals.
Among them are preserving the health-care plans of Americans who want to keep what they have,providing access to affordable coverage for people with pre-existing conditions,protecting the doctor-patient relationship,providing states with the flexibility to administer Medicaid and ensuring no tax money will fund for abortions.
“When I ran for Congress,I vowed to repeal ObamaCare,and with my first vote in the 112th Congress I will do so,” Rep. Renee Ellmers,R-N.C.,said during Tuesday’s debate. “I will work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to repeal and replace Obama’s job-killing regulations.”
However,the Senate,under Majority Leader Harry Reid,D-Nev.,is unlikely even to consider the House bill.
“The Republicans have to understand the health-care bill is not going to be repealed. … We’re willing to work in any way that’s constructive in nature to improve the health-care delivery system for our country. But repealing health care? They should get a new lease on life and talk about something else,” Reid said at a Jan. 6 press conference at the Capitol.
So what is the reason for such debate,analysis and attempted repeal of President Barack Obama’s health-care plan?
“There are many different forms of representational activity,and they don’t always have to be driven toward passing legislation. They can be symbolic,but that doesn’t mean they’re not meaningful,” said Professor Grant Reeher,Director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute at the Syracuse University Maxwell School. Reeher specializes in American politics,political theory and health-care policy.
Many House Republicans are keeping promises to the voters who put them there in hopes they would squash what they call ObamaCare.
Robert Sprinkle,an associate professor of public policy at the University of Maryland,said neither the existing law nor the House Republicans’ replacement is sufficient. Sprinkle is a medical doctor and has a doctoral degree in public and international affairs.
“Congress wants people to know they take their mission seriously,but once you look at what they’re actually doing,such as the title of the actual repeal bill,it’s just taking shots,” Sprinkle said.
Democrats expressed their frustration in Tuesday’s debate.
“What the House is doing this week is reiterating,regurgitating and rearguing the political debate about health care again,” Rep. Robert E. Andrews, D- N.J.,said.
In addition to remaining loyal to their campaign pledges,Republicans could be setting the stage for the 2012 elections. More provisions of the health-care bill will be in effect by then,which could influence voters’ opinions.
“It might really end up amounting to an act of mass self incrimination. … It’s not all clear the same enthusiasm for repealing the bill will exist in two years,and it might actually complicate things,” Sprinkle said. “The bill may have a stronger constituency among the public by that time,so they wouldn’t be able to deny they voted to repeal the bill.”
Off the House floor,others weighed in.
At a press conference Tuesday,officials of the National Center for Public Policy Analysis, a conservative policy group,issued “Repeal and Replace: 10 Necessary Changes,” a list of changes to what it believes are structural flaws in the Affordable Care Act.
“We’re setting up new programs that grow faster than the economy,and we’re supposed to reduce the deficit?” American Action Forum President Douglas Holtz-Eakin asked. “This bill is the biggest intergenerational money grab in history.”
The Congressional Budget Office defended its estimate that the Republicans’ repeal would increase the federal budget deficit by $145 billion from 2012 to 2019. The CBO estimated that the health-care law will reduce the deficit.
“There’s a larger issue here. Congress created the Congressional Budget Office in the mid-70s to provide nonpartisan analysis,” Robert Greenstein, director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities,said. “The notion of congressional leaders rejecting CBO estimates and implementing their own estimates is troubling.”
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities conducts research and analysis to ensure policymakers consider low-income families in their decisions.
House Republicans’ actions this week are a reminder to their voters of where they stand on health care issues and of a legislative system that usually gives the majority party the final say.
“It’s a team sport,and the goal is to win the game and be in control,and both sides will do anything to be in the majority,so you get back to the basic problem that Congress makes its own rules. I expect both sides will dig trenches and sit in them,” Sprinkle said. “I think the whole thing will fall silent quickly and other topics will be discussed. Everybody knows what’s going to happen. The only question is how stylish it’s portrayed.”