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House votes to repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood

January 6, 2016
In The News

WASHINGTON—In their first act of the new year, House lawmakers approved a bill that would repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood—if only it had the votes to override a presidential veto.

Known as the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act, first filed in October, the bill repeals major parts of the president’s signature healthcare law. The legislation also strips the nation’s largest abortion provider of all federal funding. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill could cut the federal deficit by a half trillion dollars over the next decade.

This is not the first time Republicans have gone after the Affordable Care Act. But just as each time before, this bill is doomed to failure. President Barack Obama has already vowed to veto the measure.

Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., said even though he expects the veto, “anytime you make someone take a stance on something, there is value in that.” Forcing Obama to endorse his flawed healthcare bill for yet another time shows the American people a lot, Pearce said.

On Saturday, Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., prompted the president in the weekly Republican radio address to listen to people deeply unhappy with the flawed healthcare reforms.

“We owe it to the American people to take our best shot at repealing Obamacare,” she insisted.

The bill also gives an important victory to new House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who is trying to earn his stripes with the House conservatives who ousted John Boehner in October. Ryan applauded the bill in a statement last week.

“With each passing day, it becomes more apparent that Obamacare is an unmitigated disaster,” he said.

Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the bill a waste of time. 

“It may be a new year, but House Republicans are stuck in the same old toxic dead-end ideas. … Republicans are spending the first week of 2016 attacking Planned Parenthood and trying to destroy the affordable health coverage of 22 million Americans,” he said.

All told, Republicans have forced Obama to veto at least 10 bills that would have unraveled the Affordable Care Act. But Wednesday’s bill marks the first time both chambers of Congress have approved a measure to repeal Obamacare.

The GOP deployed a budget mechanism known as reconciliation to get the bill through the partisan Senate. Normally a bill needs 60 Senate votes to pass. Without the necessary votes, bills are soon stuck in gridlock. But through the reconciliation process, only allowed once per year, a bill can get approval with a simple majority—51 votes. 

Ryan said Republicans could have used reconciliation on anything but chose to use it on this. He said it’s an opportunity to “put conservative priorities directly on the president’s desk.”