It took 62 tries, but the Republican members of the U.S. House on Wednesday finally sent a bill to the president’s desk that would gut the Affordable Care Act and remove federal funding to Planned Parenthood.
President Barack Obama has indicated he would veto the measure. And both chambers would need a two-thirds vote to override him, which isn’t likely.
But far from a hollow gesture, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, says the point of the exercise was to underscore for American voters that a Republican in the White House is the only way to repeal the president’s signature health care plan.
“That’s going to be an important signal that you can do big things like this and all that’s missing is a president who is willing to sign it,” Scalise said in an interview Wednesday.
Louisiana is expected to go all-in next week and start the process of expanding Medicaid — a key component of the federal health care program. Scalise said changing the qualifications to allow more low-income residents access to the government insurance was a bad move on the part of Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards, who will be sworn in Monday.
“The most broken part of health care in America is Medicaid,” Scalise said. “So expanding Medicaid is only going to put more people in a position where they got to go to the emergency room for their health care.”
Scalise said he was moved by videos released over the summer that purported to show officials with Planned Parenthood, which runs women’s health clinics and is the nation’s largest abortion provider, talking about selling parts of fetuses. Planned Parenthood says the surreptitiously taped conversations were taken out of context.
Scalise pushed to add Planned Parenthood defunding to the bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act. “I worked with the leadership team, got the speaker to agree, the majority leader and ultimately we added that to the bill,” Scalise said.
Planned Parenthood is not specifically named in the legislation but Section 206 added wording that would ban abortion providers from receiving federal funding.
“This is an important victory for the pro-life movement, as well as for conservatives all across the country who want to see the president confronted with a bill that not only guts ‘Obamacare,’ but makes him confront the problems that Americans are facing all around the country with his failed law,” Scalise said.
Voting largely along party lines, the American’s Healthcare Freedom Act passed 240 to 181. One Democrat supported the bill and three Republicans opposed it. The U.S. Senate last month approved the measure on a 52-47 vote, taking advantage of a rule attached to the budget reconciliation bill that requires a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes usually needed to pass legislation.
Previous efforts by House Republicans to dislodge the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, have failed to obtain the 60 votes usually needed in the Senate.
“This is the first time we will finally put a bill on the president’s desk that defunds Obamacare,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., with Scalise standing by his side, said at a televised news conference.
Ryan argued that the Affordable Care Act has been a failure leading to higher prices and lower choice. The House plans to develop its on health care proposal.
“Ultimately, this is going to require a Republican president; that’s why our top priority in 2016 is going to be offering the country a clear choice,” Ryan said.
“We can do much better, and we will do much better. Let’s put this on the president’s desk,” Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, said in a prepared statement.
U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, said in a statement, “We made a commitment as Republicans that we would focus on Obamacare. And then, of course, as the year went on, the country saw the horrific videos and what Planned Parenthood was doing to use taxpayer money to sell body parts.”