WASHINGTON — Waging old battles with new zeal, the House passed a bill on Wednesday to repeal President Obama’s health-care overhaul law less than two weeks after the Supreme Court upheld its major provisions as constitutional.
The bill, which was approved by a vote of 244-185, has no chance of approval in the Senate and would face a veto from Mr. Obama if it ever got to him. But the House debate exposed the depth of passion over efforts to remake the health-care system and suggested that the fight would continue next year, regardless of who wins the November elections for president and Congress.
House Republican leaders had many reasons for scheduling another vote to repeal the bill. They detest the 2010 law. They see it as a winning political issue for them. And they wanted to placate freshman Republicans such as Rep. Ben Quayle of Arizona, who described repeal of the health- care law as a way to protect constituents from “the tyranny of government overreach.”
The House has voted more than 30 times to repeal part or all of the 2010 law or to choke off funds needed for various provisions, including coverage of more than 30 million uninsured people.
Democrats said the House was wasting time that would have been better spent trying to create jobs. But Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) said: “We’re going to keep at it until we get this legislation off the books. It was a bad bill, it has become a bad law.”
- "We're going to keep at it until we get this legislation off the books. It was a bad bill, it has become a bad law." -- Rep. Marsha Blackburn, (R., Tenn.)
- "The court has spoken. 'Obamacare' is a tax." -- Rep. Sandy Adams, (R., Fla.)
- Health care is "a right, not a privilege, for all Americans." -- Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), House Democratic leader.
- "The Congressional Budget Office estimates that only 1.4 percent of Americans will pay anything for refusing to purchase insurance." -- Rep. Sander Levin (D., Mich.)
In two days of House debate this week, both parties recycled talking points.
Democrats said the ruling vindicated their policies, including a requirement for most Americans to have health insurance, starting in 2014. They said Mr. Obama needed to better defend the law, on which public opinion is deeply divided.
The Supreme Court ruling fired up Republicans because, they said, it confirmed their argument that the law would impose a tax, not just a penalty, on people who go without health insurance.
“The court has spoken,” said Rep. Sandy Adams (R., Fla.) “ ‘Obamacare’ is a tax.”
Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, described the law as one of the Democrats’ greatest achievements, making health care “a right, not a privilege, for all Americans.”
The GOP is still seething over how the law was adopted, without any of its votes.
Rep. John Fleming (R., La.) said the health law “never would have gotten passed” if the penalty for violating the individual mandate had been openly acknowledged and advertised as a tax.
Democrats gleefully quoted statements by Mitt Romney supporting the individual mandate as part of the health plan adopted in Massachusetts in 2006, when he was governor.
Rep. Sander M. Levin of Michigan, senior Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, said “almost no one” would pay the federal penalty.
“The Congressional Budget Office estimates that only 1.4 percent of Americans will pay anything for refusing to purchase insurance,” he said.