A GOP-authored bid to scrap Obamacare’s most unpopular parts breezed through the House but now faces a less certain path in the Senate, where vocal conservatives say the bill doesn’t go far enough.
The 240-189 House vote Friday also defunded Planned Parenthood for one year, a part of the package that won praise from pro-life groups even as the conservative Heritage Foundation panned the legislation as woefully short of GOP promises for a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Dubbed the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act, the bill would repeal Obamacare’s insurance mandates on individuals and employers, and would scrap taxes on medical device sales and generous health plans, an excise known as the “Cadillac tax.”
Republican leaders are leveraging a tool known as budget reconciliation that would let the bill pass on a filibuster-proof basis in the Senate. Though President Obama can still veto what Congress produces, Republicans want to prove they can dismantle Obamacare with a simple Senate majority and a GOP president in 2017.
“Let’s get this bill to the president’s desk and let him make a decision. Is he going to finally stand up for American workers and sign this bill? Or is he going to continue to support a law that’s destroying jobs and destroying health care in this country?” said Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican.
Democrats complained it was the 61st time that House Republicans scheduled a vote to scrap all or part of Obamacare while Congress struggles to meet deadlines on the nation’s debt limit, highway funding and the federal budget.
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“I don’t know why the American public is not outraged over the fact that none of their business is taken care of, but over and over and over again we talk about taking health care away from people,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter, New York Democrat.
The bill’s thorny path through the Senate starts with winning over the chamber’s referee, the parliamentarian, who will rule which provisions meet reconciliation’s arcane rules.
Already, Republican sponsors stripped out a provision that would repeal Obamacare’s yet-to-be-named board on Medicare spending, since the parliamentarian was likely to rule it out of order.
The bill also faces trouble from within the party.
A trio of Senate Republicans — two of them 2016 presidential hopefuls — said the legislation “simply isn’t good enough” and reneges on repeated vows to repeal the entire law.
“Each of us campaigned on a promise to fully repeal Obamacare and a reconciliation bill is the best way to send such legislation to President Obama’s desk. If this bill cannot be amended so that it fully repeals Obamacare pursuant to Senate rules, we cannot support this bill,” Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and two 2016 hopefuls, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, said before the House vote.
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The bill passed on the strength of Republican votes, however, with only seven GOP members rejecting it and one Democrat, Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, voting “yes,” though he’s opposed Obamacare in the past.
“With this bill, we can finally confront the president with the reality confronting working families every day: higher costs and lower quality,” said Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican.
Though he doesn’t want the job, Mr. Ryan is on the cusp of replacing John A. Boehner as speaker after he won support from the House’s three main factions and swayed a majority of the House Freedom Caucus, a coalition of hard-line conservatives who nudged Mr. Boehner out the door.
Mr. Ryan is putting himself at odds with Heritage on the reconciliation bill, and Friday’s vote appeared to split the Freedom Caucus itself. For instance, members such as Reps. Raul Labrador of Idaho, Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina and Tim Huelskamp of Kansas supported it, while Reps. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, Ken Buck of Colorado and Matt Salmon of Arizona voted “no.”