Published July 11, 2012
House lawmakers voted Wednesday to repeal the federal health care overhaul -- the latest in a long line of anti-ObamaCare votes, but the first since the Supreme Court upheld the law and defined one of its key provisions as a "tax."
The House has voted more than 30 times to scrap, defund or undercut the law since Obama signed it in March 2010. As with those bills, the repeal bill approved Wednesday on a 244-185 vote faces certain demise in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
But Republicans were looking to get lawmakers back on record on the law in the wake of the high court ruling last month. The ruling upheld most the law as constitutional, but in doing so it determined that the controversial penalty on those who do not buy insurance technically qualifies as a "tax" and not a "penalty" as the administration had claimed. That definition fueled GOP criticism of the law, and put some Democrats in a politically tricky position.
Five Democrats ended up defecting Wednesday. Reps. Mike Ross, D-Ark.; Dan Boren, D-Okla.; Mike McIntyre, D-N.C.; Larry Kissell, D-N.C.; and Jim Matheson, D-Utah, all voted yes.
In a show of party unity, all Republicans voted for the bill.
"This law epitomizes Washington at its very worst: intrusive mandates, higher costs, red tape, unaffordable spending, taxes on employers and families and control of personal health care decisions by boards, bureaus and agencies in Washington," said Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
But Democratic leaders panned Republican efforts as a waste of time.
"It's unfortunate that the Republican leadership has chosen to set jobs aside -- not just this week, but essentially every week that they've been in charge ... to spend time on partisan messaging only," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday.
She added: "Politics be damned."
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called the vote an exercise to score political points, saying this is the kind of display Americans "loathe about politics in Washington."
The health care law was Obama's signature domestic achievement, but it remains unpopular as a whole and divisive among the public, according to opinion polls. Democrats argued that erasing the law would eliminate the more popular individual elements -- a guarantee on coverage for those with pre-existing medical conditions, a requirement allowing children up to age 26 to remain on their parents' coverage and the reduction of seniors' Medicare prescription drug costs by closing the "doughnut hole" coverage gap.
Republicans say other provisions, like requirements that some employers provide health care, will harm the economy at a particularly fragile time.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.