- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 18, 2011

House Republicans already are looking past Wednesday’s expected vote to repeal Democrats’ health care law, going so far as to dare Senate Democrats to bring the bill up for a vote in their chamber.

“If Harry Reid is so confident that the repeal vote should die in the Senate then he should bring it up for a vote if he’s so confident he’s got the votes,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, told reporters, laying down a challenge to Mr. Reid, the Nevada Democrat who controls the Senate schedule.

House Republicans are confident they have the votes to pass the repeal bill, and believe they can win at least some Democratic support, which they hope could build momentum for a Senate vote.

But Democrats, rallying around the parts of the health care law that already are helping consumers, said repeal would hurt millions of Americans.

The White House released the first in what it promised would be a series of stories from “everyday Americans” who are being helped by the law and House Democrats followed suit by holding a quasi-hearing on Capitol Hill where guests shared similar stories of how they’ve benefited so far.

“The stories we will hear today will highlight the cost of the repeal of patients’ rights and to set our country back to a time when: Children with pre-existing conditions are denied coverage; young people would not be able to stay on their parents’ plans until 26 years old; pregnant women and breast and prostate cancer patients could be thrown off the insurance rolls; and seniors would have to pay more for their prescription drugs,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also released a report Tuesday that said if the law is repealed as many as 129 million Americans who have some type of pre-existing health condition, including heart disease and cancer, would be “at risk of losing health insurance when they need it most.”

The back-and-forth came as the House began debate on a bill to repeal what President Obama signed into law in March. In many ways, the vote is being viewed as the opening salvo in a battle that will determine the direction of the new Congress and shape the political storylines going into the 2012 election cycle.

“We believe that it is an unsustainable open-ended entitlement that could very well bankrupt this country and the states, given their Medicaid role to play under the bill,” Mr. Cantor said. “So, if we are unsuccessful in seeing the Senate take up the repeal bill and the president signing a repeal bill of Obamacare, we’ll do everything we can to delay and defund the provisions of the bill so that we can get some discussion going on how we can replace it, and come together on the agreement that we can’t accept the status quo.”

But the path to passage is complicated by the split in control of Congress.

Mr. Reid has promised to bottle up the legislation in the Senate.

“The health insurance reform we passed protects consumers, plain and simple,” Mr. Reid said Tuesday. “Repealing the entire law would put insurance companies back in charge of patient care, rather than the patients themselves.”

Whatever the case, Mr. Cantor said the House plans to take up a resolution Thursday aimed at starting the process of carving out an alternative bill.

“We will look instruct our committees and ask them to begin deliberations on replacing this health care law with the kind of alternatives that Americans really want, which is a bill and a solution that starts with lowering costs, increasing access, and promoting the doctor-patient relationship as far as health care in this country is concerned,” he said.

The resolution also calls for policies aimed at medical liability reform, providing people with pre-existing conditions access to affordable health coverage, and prohibiting taxpayer-funded abortions.

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