House passes 50th bill to undo Obamacare

CNN
Thursday, March 6, 2014 - 11:58am

The House on Wednesday passed another bill aimed at derailing Obamacare -- the 50th time the GOP-led chamber has tried to repeal or alter President Barack Obama's signature health law in the past three years.

Obama joked last week ahead of the vote.

"You know what they say, '50th time is the charm.' Maybe when you hit your 50th repeal vote, you will win a prize," he said.

The Republican bill would suspend a penalty for individuals who fail to enroll in health care coverage by March 31. Those who don't purchase insurance of any kind by that time face a fine of $95 or 1% of their taxable income.

The measure was approved 260-160, with 27 Democrats joining all House Republicans but one to pass it.

"The President's outlined and protected big businesses from problems with Obamacare and mandates on Obamacare. It's time to provide the same kind of relief for American families," House Speaker John Boehner told reporters.

The administration has threatened to veto the measure, but it's not expected to go anywhere in the Democratic-led Senate.

Democrats mocked the latest GOP effort - even bringing posters to the House floor commemorating the "golden anniversary" of vote No. 50.

Republicans are making problems with the new health law the centerpiece of their midterm message, and Democrats said this latest vote was more about scoring political points than improving the law.

"This obsession that our House Republican colleagues have with repealing or undermining the Affordable Care Act goes beyond just a waste of time. It actually is harming the country," House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra told reporters Wednesday.

Democrats defended the law and a series of changes that Obama has made on his own to delay some of its key provisions.

Colorado Democratic Rep. Jared Polis compared Obamacare to a marriage, saying "any marriage takes effort," but pledged "50 votes to repeal it are not going to break up that marriage."

Polis also argued that Obama's reelection in 2012 determined that voters supported the health care law.

"The American people have voted on it. They didn't elect a presidential candidate that wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They didn't elect a Senate who wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act," he said.

But congressional Republicans, who unanimously voted against the law in 2010, are confident that the bumpy Obamacare rollout last fall and the various problems businesses say they are having now will be their ticket to expanding their House majority and retaking control of the Senate this year.

Backlash over passage of Obamacare in 2010 with no Republican support helped the GOP regain control of the House in that year's midterms.

Immediately after the President signed the bill, Republicans made "repeal and replace" their mantra in that election.

But since they gained the majority, there have only been votes - now tallying 50 -- to roll back the law entirely or tweak some of its provisions.

At the House GOP retreat in January, Boehner told reporters it was important this year for his party to highlight their alternative solutions to problems.

House GOP leaders have pledged to hold a vote on a Republican proposal to replace Obamacare. A group of roughly 30 members has been meeting with top Republican leaders to draft that bill.

But there are some internal divisions about what that measure should include and aides and GOP lawmakers admit they are still trying to build consensus before scheduling any vote.

"There are wonderful things that can be done to put patients and families and doctors in charge and that's what we're pushing for and as broad as we can make that with a unified conference. That's where I think we ought to be heading," Rep Tom Price, a Georgia Republican and one of the members involved in crafting the GOP alternative, told CNN.

Price said the House could vote sometime before August on a bill that includes proposals such as selling insurance across state lines, expanding health savings accounts, and reforming medical liability laws.

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