Ascendant Republicans drove a budget through Congress that gives them an early but critical victory in their crusade to scrap President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. The vote trains the spotlight on whether they and Donald Trump can deliver on repeated pledges to not just erase that statute but replace it. Demonstrating the GOP’s willingness to plunge into a defining but risky battle, the House yesterday used a near party-line 227-198 roll call to approve a measure that prevents Senate Democrats from derailing a future bill, thus far unwritten, annulling and reshaping Obama’s landmark 2010 law. The budget, which won Senate approval early Thursday, does not need the president’s signature.
“The ‘Unaffordable’ Care Act will soon be history!” Trump tweeted yesterday in a dig at the statute’s name, the Affordable Care Act. Trump takes the presidential oath next Friday. The real work looms in coming months as the new administration and congressional Republicans write legislation to erase much of the health care law and replace it with a GOP version. Republicans have internal divisions over what that would look like, though past GOP proposals have cut much of the existing law’s federal spending and eased coverage requirements while relying more on tax benefits and letting states make decisions.
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Yesterday’s vote was preceded by debate that saw hyperbole on both sides and underscored how the two parties have alternate-universe views of Obama’s overhaul. Democrats praised it for extending coverage to tens of millions of Americans, helping families afford policies and seniors buy prescriptions, while Republicans focused on the rising premiums and deductibles and limited access to doctors and insurers that have plagued many.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the health care law was “so arrogant and so contrary to our founding principles” and had not delivered on Obama’s promises to lower costs and provide more choice. “We have to step in before things get worse. This is nothing short of a rescue mission,” Ryan said yesterday. “Our experimentation in Soviet-style central planning of our health care system has been an abject failure,” said freshman Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Texas.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Ryan was peddling “mythology” and said the GOP was moving toward worsening health care for consumers. “This is a sad day in the history of this country as Republicans begin the process of destroying health care in America,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., arguing that the GOP has no replacement in hand. “All you have is smoke and mirrors, and the American people are getting ready to get screwed.”
Nine Republicans joined all voting Democrats in opposing the budget. The budget’s approval means Senate Democrats won’t be allowed to filibuster the future repeal-and-replace bill a pivotal advantage for Republicans. They control the Senate 52-48, but it takes 60 votes to end filibusters, or endless procedural delays that can scuttle legislation.