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House votes in favor of Congressman Byrne’s bill to repeal Obamacare

Posted on February 3rd, 2015

The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday voted largely along party lines to approve a bill by Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope, to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The final vote was 239-186, with all but three Republicans in favor and all Democrats opposed. It was the 56th time the House has voted to junk the law known as Obamacare since Congress passed it in 2010.

“Obamacare is full of broken promises,” Byrne said during the debate on the House floor preceding the vote.

Under Byrne’s bill, the massive health care reform would be repealed and relevant congressional committees would be charged with devising a replacement. Byrne agreed to an amendment that would delay his repeal from taking effect for 180 days in order to give those committees time to come up with concrete proposals.

He pointed to higher premiums and regulations that made some health insurance plans noncompliant. He pointed to a poll indicating the 7 percent of respondents believe the law will reduce their health care expenses.

“That is astonishing,” he said. “I don’t believe Obamacare can be fixed through piecemeal reforms.”

Even before the House had voted, President Barack Obama told reporters that the health reform law has reduced the number of uninsured, slowed the growth of health care costs to its slowest pace in 50 years and cost less than originally projected.

“In every respect, this is working not just as intended, but better than intended,” he said.

House Democrats struck a similar theme during the debate. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., ridiculed as “recycled political gimmicks” the repeated votes in favor of repeal legislation that does not have a chance of surviving a promised veto by Obama.

“I really feel like that movie ‘Groundhog Day,'” he said, referring to the 1993 Bill Murray film in which a man keeps waking up on the same day again and again and again.

The vote came amid polls showing the public opinion on the landmark law has hardened. The latest survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundationindicates that Americans oppose the law by a margin of 46 percent to 40 percent. That is more or less within a range where the law’s popularity has stood since its passage. Rarely during that time, according to Kaiser’s tracking polls, has support outweighed opposition.

But the polling data also reveals a fair amount of ambivalence. A large majority of respondents, for instance, said they thought Congress should enact a law allowing people in all states to get subsidies for health insurance if the Supreme Court rules that the Affordable Care Act tax credits are available only in states that set up their own insurance exchanges.

Democrats slammed Byrne’s proposal.

“It would put the insurance companies back in charge of what health care you get and when you can get it,” said Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y. “That’s not a win.”

Added Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash.: “It is hard to conceive of a democratic society in which everyone does not have health security.”

Meanwhile, Byrne’s fellow Republicans – including the party’s leaders – lined up in support. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Calif, called Obamacare a “disaster.” Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., praised Byrne’s leadership on the issue and said “millions of people have lost the good health care that they liked.”

Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., said Americans only now are starting to realize the full cost of the health law because of tax increases taking effect for the first time.

“Wait till the tax season hits. … We were lied to,” said Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa.

Added Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C.: “I keep asking my friends on the other side of the aisle, if Obamacare is so good, why do we hear so much from our constituents?”

In closing remarks, Byrne contended that the law provided health insurance for the first time to only 1 percent of the Americans.

“This is about the American people. This is about something that is so very fundamentally important to them – their health care,” he said. “We took say their health care system that worked for 80 percent of them.”

How the Alabama delegation voted

All five of Byrne’s fellow Republicans signed on as co-sponsors. Only Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, voted against it. She said in a statement that Byrne’s bill “places potentially lifesaving medical care and treatment beyond the reach of hardworking Americans across this nation.”

She pointed to more than 9,900 previously uninsured people who how have health coverage in district, which stretches from Birmingham to Clarke County. That includes 38,000 children who had pre-existing health conditions, she added.

“Repealing the ACA would do more harm than good,” she stated. “Access to quality, affordable healthcare should not be a privilege. It is a necessity, and Congress should do more to assist those who cannot afford medical coverage. I will continue to defend this critically important law in the face of any and all future attacks.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Hoover, called Obamacare a “federal takeover of our health care system” that has failed to improve access to health care.

“The bill we passed today would fully repeal Obamacare and instruct the Congress to replace it with common sense solutions,” he said in a statement. “We need a health care plan that allows market competition between health insurance providers that will result in more choices for plans and at lower costs.  I hope the Senate will take up this legislation and send it to the President.”