House GOP set for health care law repeal vote, but offering no alternatives

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va., right, face reporters after a closed-door political strategy session, July 10, 2012, on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP

(CBS/AP) WASHINGTON - House Republicans generally avoided talk of replacement measures on Tuesday as they mobilized for an election-season vote to repeal the health care law that stands as President Barack Obama's signature domestic accomplishment.

Instead, they lambasted the 2-year-old law as a threat to the nation's economic recovery and predicted some Democrats would join them in repudiating it.

"This is nothing short of economic malpractice," said Rep. Nan Hayworth of New York, citing tax increases, government mandates and other items in the law. "We can and we must do better."

She did not elaborate, nor did any of the members of the leadership in their remarks to reporters after the meeting.

CBS News Congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes interviews House Majority Leader Eric Cantor about health care repeal.

Republican officials said the general reluctance to sketch any sort of alternative resulted from a desire to focus public attention on the health care law itself. It generally fares poorly in public polling, both nationally and in surveys of independent voters.

In addition, they said that while many Republicans ran on a slogan of "repeal and replace" in 2010, the rank and file is far from united around any precise alternative.

Meanwhile, as Republicans debated the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, President Obama continued his defense of the law, telling voters at a campaign speech in Iowa that health care reform had been, "the right thing to do."

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Video: Cantor explains health law repeal plan
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CBS News producer Jill Jackson explains that the repeal vote, like most of the votes before, will lead to nothing as the Democratic Senate won't consider it, and even if the House and Senate somehow agreed to repeal the law, Mr. Obama has the ultimate say with his veto pen.

CBS News political director John Dickerson said the vote isn't likely to go anywhere in the Senate, saying it's a symbolic vote - but not a totally meaningless one. He said health care spending is one-fifth of the economy, along with the aging population is the largest driver of future budget deficits. "These are important discussions, even if the legislation doesn't go anywhere. The Republicans want to show voters they're still working on this law that voters dislike."

(Watch his full analysis featured on "CBS This Morning" in the video below.)

How could Republicans repeal the health care law?

Republicans in both houses have suggested numerous measures in recent years to remake parts of the sprawling health care system. The last time the party offered a full-fledged legislative alternative was in 2009, meaning that none of the dozens of first-termers elected in 2010 were involved in its drafting.

That measure called for capping medical malpractice judgments, allowing insurance companies to sell policies across state lines and permitting small businesses to pool together to purchase coverage for their employees.

It also would have provided funds to the states to help maintain high-risk insurance pools for people with pre-existing conditions, for whom insurance is otherwise either unavailable or prohibitively expensive.

Taken together, Republicans said at the time their alternative would have reduced federal health care costs as well as the deficit. It also shunned the government mandates at the heart of the law that eventually passed.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated the GOP alternative of three years ago would have contributed to a reduction in premiums, particularly for individual policies and those covering small groups.

At the same time, the CBO, an impartial arbiter, estimated it would have left the percentage of legal residents without coverage unchanged at the end of a decade, a sharp contrast to the reductions envisioned in the Democratic legislation then taking shape.

Nor would it have required insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions or make other changes included in the law that passed.

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