House Republicans cheered their vote on Thursday to repeal President Obama's health care law as the triumph of reason and public opinion over false promises from the White House.
Democrats called them insane.
The 229 to 195 decision marked the chamber's 37th attempt to rescind all or part of the Affordable Care Act of 2010. The vote split largely along party lines and sends the bill to the Senate, where it is sure to die.
The health care law has been a partisan flash point on Capitol Hill since Mr. Obama ushered the overhaul to passage. The Supreme Court decision to uphold key portions of the law and the president's re-election have done little to stem the bickering, as major reforms inch toward implementation in 2014.
Republicans' repeated attempts to kill Mr. Obama's signature domestic achievement are symbolic, so long as Democrats control the upper chamber and the presidency. But with mid-term elections in mind, new GOP members in this Congress were eager to put a vote to repeal "Obamacare" on their political resumes.
"Is the House here, this week, spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money to repeal the Affordable Care Act because it actually believes that that will occur while President Obama is in the White House, or because freshmen members want to score political points back home?" Rep. Jared Polis, Colorado Democrat, said during debate.
One by one, Republican lawmakers on Thursday said the law would kill jobs, allow the government to seize health records and make America seem like an Eastern European country. They decried the law's potential to send premiums soaring, its slate of new taxes and mandates that they say are violating religious beliefs.
But while the repeal bills meet dead ends inside the Capitol, they could resonate outside Washington. Critics of the law often point to polls that show many Americans support a repeal or do not understand how the reforms might benefit them.
Next year, the majority of states will expand Medicaid enrollment within their borders because of the law, and many Americans without employer-based insurance will be able to shop for health plans at state-based insurance markets. Open enrollment in the "exchanges" begins Oct. 1, for coverage that takes effect Jan. 1.
Democrats said the GOP's politically futile attempts are in step with Albert Einstein's definition of insanity — doing the same over and over, but expecting a different result. The overhaul is already helping young Americans stay on their parents' health plans and providing coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, they said.
"They have no plan," Rep. Joseph Crowley, New York Democrat, said as he pointed to a blank piece of paper on an easel to represent the GOP's "chart" for reform.
Democrats also said a repeal would not be fiscally sound. The Congressional Budget Office this week told Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, that its most recent estimates indicated that a repeal of the law and its associated revenues would increase budget deficits by $109 billion through 2022.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, called for the repeal vote last week, citing mounting problems with the reforms.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Michele Bachmann, pumped her fist and quietly clapped from her seat during debate, after a Texas congressman said repealing the health care law and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms would be the best way to spur job creation. At the lectern, she said news that the IRS targeted conservative groups in recent years raises questions about the agency's ability to carry out the law's tax penalties.
"Every American should be concerned about the negative consequences of this bill — Obamacare," said the Minnesota Republican, later noting the law is "changing the course of American history."
Rep. George Miller, California Democrat, said the GOP's obsession with the law is "bordering on the absurd."
"It's time to move on, for goodness sakes," he said.
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