GOP bill would gut health law, halt Planned Parenthood money

October 23, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans rammed legislation through the House on Friday that would demolish major pillars of President Barack Obama’s health care law and halt Planned Parenthood’s federal payments. If the bill can surmount GOP divisions in the Senate and reach the White House, it faces one guaranteed fate — death by veto.

The House’s near party-line 240-189 approval came after GOP leaders overcame objections by some conservatives — including senators who are also rival GOP presidential contenders — that the measure didn’t go far enough.

Those complaints underscored that even with most House Republicans eager to elect Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., as new speaker next week, a mutinous undercurrent remains among hardline conservatives. That could mean headaches for party leaders as Congress lurches toward an autumn of showdowns with Obama over the budget and federal borrowing.

Knowing they lack the votes to prevail in a veto fight, Republicans say forcing Obama to kill the legislation would help them in next year’s elections by highlighting their political differences with Democrats for voters.

“If he vetoes it, I think it will crystallize to the country that the only component missing now is a Republican president,” Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the No. 3 House Republican, said in an interview.

Democrats called the debate a political charade, saying the House has voted 61 times to repeal all or part of Obama’s health care overhaul since the GOP took control of the chamber in 2011.

“This is a hyperpartisan document that is just talking points for extremists,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif.

Republicans wrapped the legislation in a procedure that would shield it from a Democratic Senate filibuster — meaning it will need only 51 votes to pass that chamber. Filibusters, or procedural delays aimed at killing legislation, take 60 votes to halt and there are just 54 GOP senators.

But even though the measure would wound two of the GOP’s favorite targets, attaining even a simple Senate majority may be tough for Republicans. Some moderate Republicans there are concerned it goes too far and conservatives say it doesn’t go far enough.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., a member of the Senate GOP leadership, said this week that the measure might encounter opposition from “some of our guys who are running for national office,” adding, “We’ll have to do a very careful vote count” before bringing the legislation to the chamber’s floor.

The bill’s GOP authors said it voided as much of the health law as possible while living within the constraints of Congress’ procedures.

Legislation receiving filibuster protection cannot increase the deficit, which repealing the entire health care law would do. It also cannot contain provisions with no federal budget impact, such as the law’s requirements for the types of procedures and people who must be covered.

Some conservatives remained dissatisfied.

Two presidential contenders — Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Marco Rubio, R-Fla. — along with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, wrote this week to House Republicans urging opposition, saying “This simply isn’t good enough.”

Backing the House bill were the National Right to Life Committee and the National Retail Federation.

The legislation would eliminate the health law’s requirements that most people without employer-provided health coverage buy individual policies, and that most companies provide medical insurance. It would also eliminate the statute’s tax on medical devices and another on high-priced insurance policies that doesn’t take effect until 2018.

It also prevents Planned Parenthood from getting federal money for a year — the GOP reaction to secretly recorded tapes showing group officials describing how they sometimes provide researchers with tissue from aborted fetuses.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the bill would save $79 billion over 10 years plus another $51 billion by spurring economic growth — an added impact that Democrats and many economists contest as impossible to accurately forecast.

Meanwhile, Republicans said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., would chair the House’s newly created panel to investigate Planned Parenthood and appointed seven other lawmakers to the committee. Democrats have named no participants.