The House voted Thursday to repeal the Affordable Care Act, with Republicans using this week’s furor over the Internal Revenue Service targeting conservative advocacy groups to warn against the power the IRS will have to help administer the health care law’s new insurance coverage requirements.
The vote was 229 to 195, with two Democrats crossing party lines to vote with Republicans for the repeal effort.
The two Democrats who voted to repeal the law were Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah and Rep. Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, both of whom represent very Republican-leaning districts.
It marked the 37th time the House has voted to repeal all or part of the law, but the vote allowed new members elected last November to take a symbolic stand on the law. The bill stands no chance of passage in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that repeal of the law would cause an increase in budget deficits of $109 billion over the next ten years. If the law were rescinded, spending would be cut by $890 billion and revenues by $1 trillion over the ten-year period.
Much of the debate Thursday revisited polemical points both sides have made since the law was first debated in 2009 and 2010.
House Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R- Mich., said the law “puts the federal government precisely where it doesn’t belong: between Americans and their doctors. Instead of families deciding what coverage is best for them, or families and employers deciding how much they can afford, this law has the secretary of health and human services and the IRS making those decisions.”
But Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., the senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, called Thursday’s vote “a Republican obsession” and “an embarrassing spectacle that has consumed House Republicans for more than two years, to the detriment of our economy and millions of Americans looking for work.”
Other Democrats such as Senate Finance Committee chairman Sen. Max Baucus, D- Mont., an architect of the law, have in recent weeks fretted about the way in which the Obama administration is moving to implement the law, inform the public, and sign up uninsured people.
Baucus told Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius at a hearing of his committee last month, “Small businesses have no idea what to expect ... . I just see a huge train wreck coming ... .”
Sebelius herself has become a Republican target in recent days after the Washington Post reported that she has made phone calls to health industry executives and others urging them to contribute money to nonprofit groups such as Enroll America, which is headed by a former Obama administration official, which are working to inform the uninsured about how to sign up for coverage.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said “Secretary Sebelius’s fundraising for and coordinating with private entities helping to implement the new health care law may be illegal, should cease immediately and should be fully investigated by Congress.”
He charged that her fundraising circumvents the requirement that only Congress may spend money to implement a law or run a federal program.