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House votes to block funds for healthcare law

Republicans in the House continued their attack on the healthcare overhaul law, adding measures to prohibit enactment to a key spending bill. A separate effort to cut all federal spending to 2008 levels fails.

February 19, 2011|By Lisa Mascaro, Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- A full-scale attack on the healthcare overhaul law advanced Friday as the Republican-led House attached several measures that would prevent the legislation's enactment to a spending bill, but pushed back a separate measure to cut all federal spending to 2008 levels.

Republicans have pledged to dismantle the healthcare law, the signature achievement of President Obama and the then-Democratic-controlled Congress last year, after GOP efforts to repeal the measure stalled in the Senate, which remains in Democratic hands.

In a series of back-to-back votes Friday, Republicans in the House led passage of a measure by Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) that would prohibit funds for putting the new healthcare law in place.

The House also approved two measures by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) that would ban funds carry out any of the provision of the law and bar salaries for government workers implementing the law.

Republicans also targeted a key feature of the healthcare law -- the requirement that all Americans carry insurance – voting to prohibit funds to the Internal Revenue Service for enforcement. Advocates of the individual mandate say it is designed to keep healthcare costs down by having Americans carry insurance while they are healthy rather than rely on emergency care once they become ill. Opponents call it an overreach of government authority.

"My goal, and the goal of the majority of Americans, is to repeal the new healthcare law," said Rehberg, who has announced his candidacy for the Senate in 2012, challenging Democratic Sen. Jon Tester.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), the minority leader, delivered a lengthy defense of the legislation she led through the last session of Congress.

"This is, yet again, another example of our friends standing up for the insurance companies at the expense of the American people, standing up for the insurance companies at the expense of the health and well-being of our country," Pelosi said.

The amendments were part of a weeklong debate in the House to fund the government for the remaining seven months of the fiscal year, cutting more than $60 billion for almost every aspect of federal government operations.

Obama has vowed to veto the bill, which is unlikely to pass the Senate as Democrats say such steep spending cuts could curtail the nation's fragile economic recovery and lead to job losses.

Conservative Republicans in the House suffered a serious setback Friday when their proposal to cut an additional $22 billion from the bill, to bring spending to 2008 levels, failed. About 90 Republicans voted against their colleagues' proposal to further reduce spending.

The House is continuing working through a large stack of amendments to the bill. Failure to approve a spending measure when the current plan expires on March 4 could lead to a federal government shutdown.

lmascaro@tribune.com

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