WASHINGTON — Republicans pushed a bill through the House of Representatives Wednesday that “guts Obamacare and defunds Planned Parenthood,” sending a repeal of the Affordable Care Act to President Barack Obama for the first time after five years of numerous attempts.
The bill is the 62nd attempt to repeal Obamacare, and the fifth attempt to defund the Planned Parenthood organization, according to Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., an opponent who spoke on the House floor during the debate. It passed the House 240-181 mostly along party lines, with one Democrat voting in favor of the bill and seven Republicans voting against it.
“After years of Senate Democrats blocking and filibustering, through the reconciliation process we are standing for life and confronting the President with the hard, honest truth that Obamacare doesn’t work,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said.
The bill would repeal the majority of the president’s signature health care program and defund plan subsidies for the health plan exchanges. The Senate passed the bill on Dec. 3 before Congress recessed for winter break.
Republicans used the budget reconciliation bill as the vehicle to pass an Obamacare repeal because the reconciliation process only requires legislation to achieve a simple majority in both the House and the Senate. Through the reconciliation process, Republicans in the Senate avoided a filibuster by Senate Democrats that would require a 60-vote majority, which the GOP doesn’t have, to break.
At the close of a budget process, lawmakers settle differences between the prospective budget as outlined earlier in the year with how spending worked out in practice in appropriations legislation for the 2016 fiscal year. “Today is an exciting day where we get to see the process of reconciliation work,” said freshman Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., at a news conference called by Ryan. “The president will have the choice of supporting the American people or rejecting the will of Congress and the American people.”
Westerman said the bill includes repeals of Medicaid expansions for states, which he said was “the most egregious part” of Obama’s health care program. Arkansas was the first state to expand Medicaid benefits in 2013 under the “private option,” which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance plans for those eligible. On Monday, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson asked the federal government to allow changes to the state’s program that would place new limits on program beneficiaries.
In addition to repealing Obamacare, the bill also would block federal funds for Planned Parenthood for as long as it offers abortion services. But it also increases funding for community health clinics.
Planned Parenthood, which receives the majority of its federal money through Medicaid reimbursements, became the target of defunding efforts following the release of videos that appeared to show Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of aborted fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood officials testified during a House committee hearing last year that an analysis of the videos showed they were manipulated and altered.
On the Democratic side of the aisle, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., challenged the promises made by Republicans to introduce an alternative health insurance program in the coming weeks.
“Many have been wondering what new, ambitious ideas Republicans would put forward to kick off this new session of the 114th Congress. Well, today we have the answer: the sixty-second effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act that everybody knows is not going anywhere,” he said.
Speaker Ryan, who is anti-abortion, said that making patient-centered health care a top priority will require a Republican president.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said the party will be working on an agenda “for the people” during the Republican policy retreat next week.
“You should be trusted to make your own decisions and have the freedom to pursue your own dreams. That’s the kind of vision we will be building for 2016,” Rodgers said.