For the first time since ObamaCare became the law of the land, Congress has sent legislation repealing the Affordable Care Act to President Obama’s desk for signature. While the bill is most certainly going to be vetoed, it still marks a significant moment for the GOP-led Congress.
"We are confronting the president with the hard, honest truth," said Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. "ObamaCare doesn't work."
The bill dismantles key provisions in the healthcare law, including the individual and employer mandates. It would also eliminate federal health subsidies and halt ObamaCare's expansion of Medicaid. The bill also cuts federal funding to Planned Parenthood.
On Wednesday, the House voted 240 to 181 to approve the legislation, entitled the "Restoring American's Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015," that passed in the Senate last month through budget reconciliation, which allowed the bill to pass with a simple majority. Three Republicans in the House — Representatives Robert Dold of Illinois and Richard Hanna and John Katko of New York — voted against the bill, while one Democrat, Representative Collin Peterson of Minnesota, supported it.
Congressional Republicans have met with obstacles to defund and/or repeal ObamaCare since the healthcare bill was passed into law in 2010, and have held more than 60 votes to repeal all or part of the healthcare law. They’ve had an equally difficult time defunding Planned Parenthood, despite the release of controversial videos that showcased Planned Parenthood’s involvement in the sale of body parts of aborted babies.
Of course, the GOP victory will be short-lived, as the presidential veto is inevitable. The White House issued its veto threat of the legislation after it passed in the Senate last month.
"Rather than refighting old political battles by once again voting to repeal basic protections that provide security for the middle class, Members of Congress should be working together to grow the economy, strengthen middle‑class families, and create new jobs," the veto threat said.
But while Republicans do not have the necessary votes to override a presidential veto, which requires two-thirds of the House and Senate, they consider the passage of the bill to be a monumental success, as they have finally overcome the Senate filibuster that previously halted other ObamaCare repeal efforts.
The Washington Post reports that Democrats have begrudged the votes as “political soundbite[s],” since the bill’s ultimate fate is decided, at least for now.
"A bill that is going to the White House, that will get the fastest veto we've ever seen happen in this country, is a monumental vote? This is just a waste of everyone's time," said Representative Jim McGovern (D-Mass.).
But Representative Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) indicates it’s important to hold votes that force lawmakers to go on record about controversial items such as ObamaCare. And when President Obama vetoes the bill, it will underscore once more that the president continues to support a failing law.
"Anytime that you make someone in elective office take a stance, it's extremely valuable," Pearce told reporters Wednesday. Obama "will absolutely say ‘I refuse to understand that you in America are hurting because of this [law]’... I think that’s extraordinarily valuable in these political circumstances.”
Furthermore, Republicans have observed that while the bill will fail under Obama, it would be supported by a Republican president, which they are hopeful is in the near horizon. Therefore, they intend to pass the repeal bill once again after the presidential election.
"The people deserve a truly patient-centered healthcare system," Ryan told reporters. "And ultimately, this is going to require a Republican president. That’s why our top priority in 2016 is going to be offering the country a clear choice with a bold, pro-growth agenda."
Republican leaders are optimistic that they can galvanize their base in the fight against ObamaCare.
“My goal is to help unify the conservative movement so we can unify the Republican Party so … that the citizens of this nation get to choose in 2016 what kind of country they want to have in the 21st century,” Ryan said last month. “It’s nothing short of a generational defining moment we are facing (this) year.”
Ryan also states that the Republican focus this year will be to pass a healthcare reform replacement bill in response to challenges by the Democrats that the GOP has no alternative to ObamaCare, Fox News reports.
Democrats are not convinced that Republicans can offer better options. “I’m curious, where is your alternative?” Representative McGovern asked Wednesday. “Is it hidden in some secret room in the Capitol? Maybe Donald Trump has it? Perhaps we should alert the Capitol Police or, better yet, maybe we can call the FBI to locate the Republican plan on health care?”
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton raised similar concerns during an appearance in Iowa earlier this week. “They have no plan,” Clinton said. “The Republicans just want to undo what Democrats have fought for for decades and what President Obama got accomplished.”
Republicans would say that what President Obama “accomplished” was a whole lot of broken promises, exorbitant cost increases, and a decimation of the free market.
And a GOP solution that does not restore the free market will have similar results. The best solution would be for the federal government to actually follow the U.S. Constitution and stay out of healthcare entirely. Government meddling in the healthcare markets, particularly federal government meddling, is what has caused many of the problems that have led to calls for "reform" in the first place. True free-market healthcare where individuals can work directly with their doctors and where prices are transparent and competitive would bring back some sanity to the situation and be better for all Americans, including those who have difficulty affording insurance under today's system.
For now, ObamaCare still stands, but a lot can change in one year. In the meantime, following President Obama's veto, Republican leaders are aiming to schedule a symbolic override vote to coincide with the annual “March for Life” rally in Washington, D.C. set for January 22. The president will win the fight to maintain ObamaCare and preserve funding for the leading abortion business in the country at the same time hundreds of thousands of Americans flock to D.C. to protest the tragic Roe v. Wade decision.
Photo of Republicans at a signing ceremony for the ObamaCare repeal bill before sending it to the president: AP Images