Monday, July 2, 2012

House Plans July Vote on Repealing Health Care Law as Republicans Intensify Attack on President

Reacting swiftly to the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, House Republican leaders on June 28 immediately called for a vote on July 11 to repeal the law in its entirety. "The president’s health care law is hurting our economy by driving up health costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio in a statement following the Supreme Court’s decision. "Today’s ruling underscores the urgency of repealing this harmful law in its entirety." Democratic strategists however, called the ruling a victory for President Obama that would likely re-invigorate his sagging re-election campaign.

For his part, the president asked Congress and the country to move beyond divisive politics and to focus on improving the economy. "With today’s announcement, it’s time for us to move forward—to implement and, where necessary, improve on this law," he said, speaking in the East Room of the White House. "And now is the time to keep our focus on the most urgent challenge of our time: putting people back to work, paying down our debt and building an economy where people can have confidence that if they work hard, they can get ahead."

The president acknowledged that the law was politically unpopular, but as he briefly outlined the positive aspects of health care reform, he re-affirmed his belief that it was a move in the right direction. "Whatever the politics, today’s decision was a victory for people all over this country whose lives will be more secure because of this law and the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold it," said Obama.

Having lost the legal battle over President Obama’s signature policy victory, GOP leaders in both the House and the Senate said the majority of Americans do not like the law and health care will be a major issue in the presidential election, including its impact on the economy and jobs. "If nothing else, today's health care decision underscores the importance of this election," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. "The people of America are going to have a choice to make in November and clearly it's a choice that will bear upon the direction of this country as far as our health care is concerned."

Former Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Ohio, targeted the Court’s argument that, while Congress’ ability to regulate is limited, its ability to tax is unlimited. "The only way the law is constitutional is by doing what the president denied, that the penalty was a tax," said Grassley. "The legislation was sold in Congress and to the country under false pretenses."

Republican members of the House Ways and Means Committee issued a release highlighting the fact that the Supreme Court’s health care ruling leaves in place 21 tax increases enacted as part of that law. According to the summary, 12 of those provisions target Americans earning less than $200,000 per year for singles and $250,000 per year for married couples. They claimed that the provisions are "a clear violation of the president’s pledge to avoid tax hikes on low- and middle-income taxpayers." They also cited a revised estimate from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), which does not include updated scores for the individual mandate, the employer mandate or certain other revenue effects, showing "the tax increases that remain on the books will cost taxpayers more than $675 billion over the next ten years."

Senate Republican leaders also backed calls to immediately repeal what is often referred to as "Obamacare." "Today’s decision makes one thing clear: Congress must act to repeal this misguided law, " said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "Today’s decision does nothing to diminish the fact that Obamacare’s mandates, tax hikes and Medicare cuts should be repealed and replaced with common-sense reforms that lower costs and that the American people actually want," stated McConnell. "It is my hope that, with new leadership in the White House and Senate, we can enact these step-by-step solutions and prevent further damage from this terrible law."

While Republicans vowed to continue their efforts to overturn the law, Democrats quietly expressed approval of the Court’s finding that health care reform abided by the Constitution, leaving Congress with the freedom to focus now on the economy. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also called on Republicans to "stop fighting yesterday’s battles," adding, as did the president, that lawmakers will continue to address imperfections in the law. "No one thinks this law is perfect. But Democrats have proven we’re willing to work with Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act," said Reid from the Senate floor. "Now that this matter is settled, I hope we can work together to create jobs and secure this country’s economic future."

House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Sander Levin, D-Mich., issued a release saying, "The winners today are the American people. After nearly five decades—spanning eight presidents—we have succeeded in enacting comprehensive health care reform. Americans are already benefitting from the law’s provisions that prevent the worst insurance company abuses, expand preventive care, reduce prescription drug costs for seniors, and allow young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance." He added, "Now we can move forward and implement the law’s provisions that will expand coverage, and reform our overall system to reduce costs for middle-class families. I urge my Republican colleagues to respect the opinion of the Court and end their misleading and partisan all-out assault on health care reform."


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