WASHINGTON – In perhaps a symbolic vote, the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday to repeal a sweeping health-care law that continues to be as controversial as it is historic.
Approved by a vote of 245-189, the bill is expected to go nowhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
All five Oklahomans in the House – Republican Reps. John Sullivan, Frank Lucas, Tom Cole and James Lankford and Democratic Rep. Dan Boren – voted for the repeal measure.
"As I have said from the start, Obamacare is bad for patients, bad for doctors, bad for small business and terrible for our stagnant economy,'' Sullivan said. "Small-business owners across my district are scared to death that the president's health-care law is putting them out of business.''
He described the repeal vote as the first step in developing a health-care system that works for all Americans without costly and unconstitutional provisions.
Boren was one of three Democrats to support the repeal measure.
He said the current health-care law, when taken as a whole, adds far too many taxes, mandates and regulations that burden Oklahoma families and prevent job creators from producing sorely needed economic growth.
"Furthermore, a clear majority of my constituents want this law repealed and replaced with a more workable solution. And it is in that spirit that I supported a full repeal,'' Boren said.
"Like most Oklahomans, I support common-sense health-care reforms such as preventing insurance companies from denying individuals with pre-existing conditions, allowing children to stay on their parents' insurance until they are 26 and making it illegal to drop someone because they are sick.''
Lucas, who presided over a part of the floor debate, said the straight up-or-down vote on repealing the health-care law was a promise such as the one he made to constituents after hearing their concerns over a trillion-dollar government takeover of health care during his 50 town hall meetings.
"It is time to sit down and start over with reforms that don't scare employers from hiring, reforms that allow the American people to have a choice in their health care and save rather than cost the people of Oklahoma money,'' Lucas said.
Cole described the current law as "bad legislation that spends $1.2 trillion we don't have and burdens American businesses and families with unacceptable costs and regulations.''
Lankford said Americans were outraged by passage of the health-care law.
"A clean slate that will allow us to enact common-sense reforms is the only solution,'' he said, urging the Senate to take up the repeal legislation.
In yet another signal the bill is viewed as DOA in the other chamber of Congress, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., described it as "nothing more than partisan grandstanding at a time when we should be working together to create jobs and strengthen the middle class.''
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., congratulated House Republicans and, despite Reid's stance, offered assurances senators will follow the House's lead in holding a vote.
"We should repeal this law and focus on common-sense steps that actually lower costs and encourage private-sector job creation,'' McConnell said.
"That's what Americans want. It's the right thing to do."
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., directly challenged Reid to allow a vote.
"The American people deserve a full hearing. They deserve to see this legislation go to the Senate for a full vote,'' Cantor said, referring to one Democratic leader's claim that the House bill is a win for his side.
"If so, let's see the votes,'' he said.
Passed when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, the 10-month-old law is a dramatic change in the nation's domestic policy.
Its provisions will kick in over several years and are designed to bring about near universal health-care coverage by barring insurance companies from such practices as refusing coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions.
Parents also will be allowed to keep their children on their insurance policies until they turn 26, and Democrats said the new law will address rising health-care costs.
House Republicans continue to attack the bill as a massive government takeover of the nation's health-care system that will increase federal taxes and spending.
They promise to come up with a replacement proposal, but specific details have not been announced.
House Republican committee chairmen scheduled a press conference Thursday to discuss their next step, which is expected to focus on lowering costs, expanding coverage and protecting the doctor-patient relationship.
An effort to block funding for the health-care law reportedly has been suggested, but, again, that bid would run into opposition in the Senate.
President Barack Obama also could veto such legislation if it reached his desk
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