Congress sent an ObamaCare repeal bill to the president’s desk for the first time on Wednesday, marking an election-year victory of sorts for Republicans who have tried since 2010 to scrap the law.
The bill repealing most of President Obama's signature health care law was approved in a final 240-181 House vote Wednesday afternoon, after clearing the Senate late last year. The legislation also would strip federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
The measure still faces certain doom at the White House, and Democrats derided the vote Wednesday as pointless. The president is sure to veto, and Republicans do not have the votes to override.
But the political theater marks the opening volley in a fresh ObamaCare fight under the Paul Ryan-led House, and one likely to energize the party’s election-year efforts.
“I fully anticipate the president will veto this, but I mean, how many times have we been saying we want to put bills on his desk that say who we are, what we believe versus what he believes, and that he will veto,” Speaker Ryan, R-Wis., told Fox News Tuesday night before the vote.
The new speaker’s next goal is to engineer and pass a bill – also for the first time – to replace the Affordable Care Act. Doing so could help Republicans respond to Democrats’ allegations that they have no viable alternative.
Ryan is tempering expectations for the GOP in this exercise.
In a recent meeting with reporters, the speaker indicated that the House was practically obligated to pass a health care reform replacement bill. He was confident the House could do so this year but underscored that he didn’t say the president would sign the legislation into law.
But this is still part of Ryan’s effort to contrast Republicans’ plans with the Obama agenda. Democrats have long hectored Republicans for failing to cough up a bill to replace the current health care law even as they try to repeal it. If they at least draft a bill, and even pass it, then the parties can argue over a concrete policy choice.
“We need to win the election, and the best way to win the election is give people a choice,” Ryan told Fox News, speaking generally about the two parties’ platforms.
Republicans have held more than 60 votes so far to repeal all or part of the health care law.
They only cleared this one past the Senate because they used a special set of budget rules known as “reconciliation.” This allowed the measure to pass with a simple majority – typically, Republicans would have needed to muster 60 votes to pass it.
Planned Parenthood has come under attack since videos surfaced last year of graphic discussions about harvesting fetal tissue.
Wednesday's vote, meanwhile, provided fresh fodder for the Democratic presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton warned in Iowa earlier this week that the vote shows the high stakes at play in the 2016 race. She, too, accused Republicans of offering no alternative.
“They have no plan. The Republicans just want to undo what Democrats have fought for decades and what President Obama got accomplished,” she said.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.