Wednesday, January 6, 2016

House poised to pass ObamaCare repeal

The Wednesday vote will cap several years of contentious debate within the GOP over the best approach to fighting the healthcare law, which has now expanded insurance coverage to more than 16 million people.
While some Republicans have pushed to put forward an alternative to ObamaCare, others have argued that full repeal should be the first priority.
The repeal argument has won out for now. By approving the reconciliation bill, Republicans hope they will bolster their chances in the 2016 elections by showing voters what would happen if they controlled Washington.
The repeal vote is being accomplished through reconciliation, a complex budget tactic that allowed Republicans to bypass a filibuster from Senate Democrats.
GOP leaders in both chambers adopted the reconciliation strategy after the 2014 elections, when Republicans won control of Congress for the first time since 2006.
Passage of the bill could help persuade the conservative base that congressional Republicans remain committed to fully repealing the law, despite setbacks.
“You can use this bill once a year, and we used it for this,” Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) recently said on conservative host Bill Bennett’s national radio show.
Getting to this point wasn’t smooth. Some of the party’s presidential hopefuls, including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), argued the reconciliation bill did not go far enough to repeal the law. Rubio ultimately voted for the bill, while Cruz did not.
Once the legislation passes the House, Obama will have 10 days to veto it, setting up a showdown leading up to his final State of the Union address. It will be Obama’s eighth veto since assuming office, and one that he might be eager to publicize.
In the past, Obama has vetoed some bills quickly and quietly, such as the February bill that would have approved the Keystone XL pipeline. Others he has rejected with fanfare, such as the defense bill he vetoed in front of the cameras in October.
The manner of his veto this month — and whether he mentions it in next week’s State of the Union address — could hint at Obama’s public strategy for defending the healthcare law during his last year in office.
Obama could tout the latest enrollment tally for the Affordable Care Act, with the figure projected to exceed expectations after a surge of sign-ups among younger adults.
And a landmark study from the journal Health Affairs released Tuesday found that the law has not forced employers to shift workers into part-time work, rebutting another GOP attack line against ObamaCare.
The real showdown over the law, however, won’t take place until the next president takes the oath in 2016.
So far, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has embraced the law on the campaign trail while acknowledging some shortcomings, including rising out-of-pocket costs. Prescription drug spending, which increased 12 percent nationally over the last year, is also emerging as a top 2016 issue.
The Republican candidates are uniformly committed to repealing -ObamaCare, with some differences when it comes to a replacement plan.
Some GOP candidates, including Rubio, Jeb Bush and Ben Carson, have laid out basic structures for replacing the law. Most of the proposals revolve around returning power to the states but lack details about how to pay for reforms and avoid the massive disruption in insurance plans that would come from repeal.
Polling data as recently as December show that Republicans have the upper hand on the politics of ObamaCare, with 48 percent of people opposing the law and only 40 percent supporting it.
“The more Republicans talk about the law, the more they highlight the law’s shortcomings, the worse the law is in the eyes of the American people,” said Dan Holler, spokesman for the conservative group Heritage Action, which has kept up the pressure on GOP leaders for ObamaCare repeal.
“The fact that there’s path forward for repeal in 2017 will help the nominee later this year,” Holler said.
The House’s vote on Wednesday will also kick start discussions in the House about how to replace the 2010 law.
In his first weeks in office, Ryan charged top committee chairman with coming up with a comprehensive replacement bill.
Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), who chairs the House Budget Committee, said Tuesday that Republicans will be merging more than 100 healthcare bills into legislation that can be presented to voters ahead of the November elections.
Over the next few months, the committees will produce “a piece of legislation that we can be proud of and that the American people can point to and say, those are the folks we want to be in charge of healthcare policy,” Price said Tuesday on Fox News.
Holler, the Heritage Action spokesman, said the repeal vote demonstrates to voters that Republican leaders will follow through on repeal if and when they win the White House.
“Now, we have some reason to believe they will actually deliver on that promise,” he said. “There was a lot of reason to be skeptical.”
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