WASHINGTON – Republicans failed in their latest futile attempt Tuesday to kill President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, a Groundhog Day vote by the House that was solely an exercise in election-year political messaging.
Tuesday’s near party-line vote to override Obama’s January veto of legislation gutting much of the law was 241-186, but that fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to reverse a veto. House Speaker Paul Ryan said the effort to force enactment of the bill, which would have also ended federal payments to Planned Parenthood, would send an important signal.
“What we’re proving today is if we have a Republican president next year, we will repeal Obamacare,” Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters, using a nickname for a law that GOP lawmakers have despised since it was pushed through Congress six years ago.
Ryan said the GOP will offer its own proposal this year for replacing the law, saying it would lower costs and “restore the doctor-patient relationship.” Republicans have struggled unsuccessfully for years to coalesce behind a replacement plan.
Democrats mocked the GOP for trying yet again — and on Groundhog Day, no less — to kill or curb the law. Democrats said Tuesday’s vote marked the 63rd such effort since Republicans took control of the House in 2011, and cited estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that the rollback would end medical care for 22 million Americans.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., called the measure “probably one of the saddest examples of a Congress run amok.”
Van Hollen also said Republicans had “a lot of gall” to try blocking Planned Parenthood’s federal money a week after a grand jury in Texas found no wrongdoing by the organization and instead indicted anti-abortion activists who had secretly filmed videos of the group’s officials.
Republican efforts to halt funding for Planned Parenthood escalated last year after the videos showed its officials discussing how they sometimes furnish fetal tissue to scientists. Opponents said the tissue is provided illegally, but the group denies that and videos and several congressional investigations have unearthed no evidence of unlawfulness.
Democrats were also trying to leverage Tuesday’s vote, with political committees backing House and Senate Democrats emailing supporters looking to stir up support and perhaps contributions.
The vetoed bill would annul major parts of the health care law, effectively repealing its requirements that most people obtain insurance and that large companies offer their employees coverage. It would also void the statute’s option for states to expand Medicaid coverage to more low-income people and abolish taxes the law imposed, such as on upper-income people and high value insurance policies.
The budget office estimated that the vetoed bill, if enacted, would save $318 billion over a decade.
Tellingly, leaders have not said Congress would necessarily vote on a Republican health care law this year. A vote could prove uncomfortable for GOP lawmakers seeking re-election this fall from states that expanded Medicaid coverage for their residents, such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Hampshire.