- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The House Ways and Means Committee moved Tuesday to chip away at Obamacare by using a fast-track budget tool to repeal the law’s most unpopular taxes and provisions, including the mandate requiring Americans to hold insurance.

Chairman Paul Ryan said the tool, known as reconciliation, offered congressional Republicans their best chance to voice their objections to the Affordable Care Act of 2010, as they only need majority support in the Senate to send a bill to the White House.

“It would dismantle this unworkable law,” Mr. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said of his panel’s recommendations.

The panel voted along party lines, 23-14, to repeal insurance mandates on individuals and large employers and levies on medical devices and generous health care plans. It also voted by voice to scrap a panel set up under the health law to rein in Medicare costs.

Democrats used reconciliation to help pass Obamacare in 2010, although Mr. Obama would still maintain a veto over whatever repeal bill Congress passes this time around. Still, the GOP wants to prove it can repeal Obamacare with a Republican president in 2017 even if they cannot win a filibuster-proof majority of 60 votes in the Senate.

Instructions in the GOP-authored, fiscal 2016 budget instructed the Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce and Education and the Workforce committees each to draft recommendation for reducing the deficit by at least $1 billion.

Besides attacks on Obamacare, the Energy and Commerce panel will ask Congress to defund Planned Parenthood as punishment for its controversial abortion practice.

The House Budget Committee will compile the various recommendation into a unified bill for the chamber to consider in the coming weeks.

Mr. Ryan decided to repeal Obamacare’s major insurance mandates and a yet-to-be-appointed panel, known as “IPAB,” that was designed to recommend ways to keep Medicare costs in check but has been derided by Republicans as an attempt to ration care.

Some Democrats on the committee signaled they will vote to scrap the panel, even though they like the law overall.

The committee will also move to repeal the health law’s 2.3-percent excise tax on medical device sales and the so-called “Cadillac tax” that, starting in 2018, will impose a 40 percent levy on employer health plans that exceed amounts.

“These five changes would hit our [budget] target,” Mr. Ryan said.

Committee Democrats said if the GOP is intent on repealing Obamacare, they would assume there is a replacement waiting in the wings. However, congressional Republicans haven’t voted on one.

They also demanded to know how many people would lose coverage under the GOP’s plan, but could not get an exact estimate from Thomas A. Barthold, chief of staff for the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Some Democrats, however, signaled they had a rough idea of the number.

“The bright idea today is to pass a bill today that will result in 14 million fewer Americans having health insurance?” Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Texas Democrat, said.

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