House to Vote to Repeal Health Care Reform on Jan. 12th

House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, left and President Barack Obama. AP Photo

Incoming House Majority Leader John Boehner of Ohio and President Barack Obama.
AP Photo

Updated 11:45 p.m. Eastern Time

Moving aggressively on one of their signature issues, newly-empowered House Republicans plan to vote to repeal President Obama's health care reform legislation on January 12th.

"Obamacare is a job killer for businesses small and large, and the top priority for House Republicans is going to be to cut spending and grow the economy and jobs," said Brad Dayspring, spokesman for Majority Leader-Elect Eric Cantor. "Further, ObamaCare failed to lower costs as the President promised that it would and does not allow people to keep the care they currently have if they like it. That is why the House will repeal it next week."

Indeed, Republicans, who control the House in the new Congress, have more than enough votes to pass a repeal bill if their caucus holds together, as it likely will. But the measure will then almost surely stall in the Senate, where Democrats (who still control the chamber) can simply refuse to bring the bill to the floor. Even if the Senate were to consider the measure, it's hard to imagine that Republicans could find 60 votes to overcome a likely Democrat-led filibuster.

Republicans control 48 Senate votes, which means that 12 Democrats would have to break ranks to get the bill to the president's desk. In the unlikely event that the bill does somehow get through the Senate, Mr. Obama will veto it, sending it back to both chambers, where it would need a two-thirds majority for a veto override.

GOP Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.), the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said Sunday the votes exist in the House to overcome a veto.

"We have 242 Republicans. There will be a significant number of Democrats, I think, that will join us," he said.

Five Senate Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, released a statement in response to the House GOP's planned vote spotlighting one of the popular facets of the health care reform bill - the fix to the Medicare "donut hole" that went into effect over the weekend. ("Donut hole" refers to the gap that forces seniors to pay all of their prescription drug costs above a certain threshold until the costs rise to "catastrophic" levels.)

"We urge you to consider the unintended consequences that the law's repeal would have on a number of popular consumer protections that help middle class Americans," they wrote. "The 'donut hole' fix is just one measure that would be threatened by a repeal effort. Taking this benefit away from seniors would be irresponsible and reckless at a time when it is becoming harder and harder for seniors to afford a healthy retirement."

House Republicans posted the two-page repeal bill online Monday night. (PDF) It is called "the "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act."

If and when the repeal bill stalls, expect Republicans to try to chip away at the health care bill by other means. This can be done both by repealing specific provisions and by choking off funding for implementation, a path that could lead to a government shutdown. They also hope court challenges to the bill, focused on its individual mandate for coverage, mean it gets struck down on legal grounds. The health care reform laws are being phased in slowly, and the individual mandate does not go into effect until 2014.

While polls show the health care reform overhaul remains unpopular overall, most Americans support many of its major provisions - which means you can expect Democrats to keep spotlighting those provisions as the GOP pushes for repeal. Republicans have vowed to "repeal and replace" what they have termed "Obamacare," though it remains unclear what their alternate reform bill would look like. 

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