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House votes on repeal of healthcare law

The effort fulfills a pledge Republicans made to voters in the 2010 campaign. The bill is likely to fail in the Senate.

January 19, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — The Republican-led House of Representatives voted Wednesday to repeal the 10-month-old health reform law, a symbolic rebuke of President Obama's signature legislative accomplishment.

Each of the chamber's 242 Republicans voted to support the bill; all but three Democrats voted against it.

The move fulfilled a pledge Republicans made to voters in the 2010 campaign for a swift vote to undo what they called the "job-killing" measure.

"If we agree that this law needs improving, why would we keep it on the books?" House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a floor speech just before the vote. "This is what we said we would do. When you look at the facts and when you listen to the people, this is a promise worth keeping."

The repeal effort is likely to end there, however, as Senate Democrats, who still control that chamber, have no intention of taking up the bill.

With the vote sure to pass in the House, GOP leaders sought Wednesday to ramp up political pressure on the Senate to act.

"I have a problem with the assumption here that somehow the Senate can be a place for legislation to go into a cul-de-sac or a dead-end," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said. "The American people deserve a full hearing. They deserve to see this legislation go to the Senate for a full vote."

The move by House Republicans has spurred a vigorous defense of the law by many Democrats and the Obama administration, even as they were reluctant to do so in the fall campaign. They cited emotional stories of constituents who are benefitting from the law — particularly children who can no longer be denied insurance coverage for preexisting conditions.

Repeal, Democrats said, could cause more than 5 million Americans with preexisting conditions to be denied coverage, and add $230 billion to the deficit in the next 10 years.

"Democrats have made a firm commitment that we would judge every proposal that comes to the floor by whether it creates jobs, strengthens the middle class, and reduces the deficit. The repeal of patients' rights fails on all three counts," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said before the vote.

Before the repeal vote, Democrats also put forward a politically loaded amendment that would have forced members of Congress to give up their government-provided health coverage. The measure, intended to portray Republicans as hypocritical, was defeated largely along party lines.

According to a new Associated Press-GfK poll this week, just 1 in 4 Americans surveyed supported full repeal, while a CNN/Opinion Research poll released Tuesday said 50% supported the repeal vote and 42% did not. Unlike CNN, the Associated Press poll gave respondents the option of saying they would like the law changed, a choice favored by 43%.

Wednesday's vote had been delayed by one week in response to the shooting in Tucson that left six dead and more than a dozen others injured, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona).

mmemoli@tribune.com

Noam N. Levey and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.

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