After dozens of failed attempts to undo President Barack Obama’s health care law, the GOP-led Congress will finally put a bill on the president’s desk striking at the heart of his signature legislative achievement.
Obama will veto the bill, and so the ultimate outcome will be the same as the many previous GOP attempts to repeal “Obamacare.” But Wednesday’s vote in the House will mark the first time such a bill makes it all the way to the White House.
Unlike past efforts that were blocked by Senate Democrats, this time the legislation was written under special rules protecting it from a Democratic filibuster. It passed the Senate late last year, and so Wednesday’s House vote will send it straight to Obama.
House GOP leaders, opening their 2016 legislative session, said Wednesday’s vote and Obama’s subsequent veto will lay bare a stark choice between the parties in a presidential election year. The legislation also cuts federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton has decried the legislation while leading GOP candidates applaud it.
“It’s up to the president to decide if he wants to side with the people whose health care costs have skyrocketed out of control, or the abortion industrial complex whose profits have skyrocketed out of control,” said Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. “Congress is holding President Obama accountable.”
Democrats denounced the vote as a waste of time aimed at placating GOP base voters riled up by Donald Trump and the unruly Republican presidential race.
“It’s the 62nd vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act. It has as much chance as the previous ones did,” said House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland. He said that Republicans “don’t have an alternative, and the reaction of the American public if they lost the benefits and protections of the Affordable Care Act would be very upset.”
Indeed despite numerous promises to “repeal and replace” the health care law since its enactment nearly six years ago, Republicans have never coalesced around an alternative. Ryan has promised that will change this year.
The bill being voted on Wednesday would dismantle the health law’s key pillars, including requirements that most people obtain coverage and larger employers offer it to workers.
It would eliminate the expansion of Medicaid coverage to additional lower-income people and the government’s subsidies for many who buy policies on newly created insurance marketplaces. And it would end taxes the law imposed to cover its costs.
The bill would also terminate the roughly $450 million yearly in federal dollars that go to Planned Parenthood, about a third of its budget. A perennial target of conservatives, the group came under intensified GOP pressure last year over providing fetal tissue for research.
“It is appalling that in their first week back in session the top priority for Republican leaders in the House is rolling back women’s access to preventive health care,” said Dawn Laguens, vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
GOP leaders hope to schedule a veto override vote to coincide with the Jan. 22 March for Life in Washington, the annual gathering of anti-abortion activists on the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. However Republicans do not command enough votes to override the president’s veto.