House Holds Test Vote On Repealing Health Care Law

Let the debate begin: The Republican-led House took a preliminary vote on its campaign promise of repealing the new health care law.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

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The new Congress got down to business today. Republican leaders began the process of repealing the health care law that Democrats and President Obama passed less than a year ago. GOP leaders say they have a mandate for repeal after they took the House in November.

As NPR's Andrea Seabrook reports, today's move was Republicans' opening salvo in the next political battle over health care.

ANDREA SEABROOK: What happened today was kind of a test vote on repealing health care. It was just a procedural measure: the rules that will govern the debate over the real repeal bill next week. But as a test, Republicans passed with flying colors: 236 to 181, 2 members voted present. What made today's floor debate interesting was hearing from a few of the feisty, confident Republican freshmen like Vicky Hartzler.

Representative VICKY HARTZLER (Republican, Missouri): This is a freedom bill.

SEABROOK: Hartzler represents the people in Missouri's 4th District who, she says, are especially angry that the government will force them to buy health insurance.

Rep. HARTZLER: By passing this last year, you have taken away my freedom, the freedom of the people of the 4th District and the freedom of this country.

SEABROOK: Another newly elected Republican, Nan Hayworth of New York, is a physician.

Representative NAN HAYWORTH (Republican, New York): The House's vote to repeal is the first step towards assuring that all Americans will have the quality, choice and innovation in health care that they expect and deserve.

SEABROOK: These and other Republican freshmen emit a kind of fiery confidence that they'll be able to repeal the health care bill. But the mechanics are against them. The Senate is still controlled by Democrats and even if it were to pass there, the president would whip out his veto pen faster than you can say Obama care.

That's why Congress watchers keep calling this repeal bill symbolic, which Hayworth, the New York freshman, totally rejects.

Rep. HAYWORTH: The bill we will be considering is in no way merely symbolic. It represents the true will of the American people, the majority of whom have stated time after time that they reject this law.

Representative PETER DEFAZIO (Democrat, Oregon): Previous speaker's right, this is not symbolic, it's real.

SEABROOK: Oregon Democrat Peter DeFazio matched the new Republicans' zeal.

Rep. DEFAZIO: The Republicans are going to allow the return of the worst abuses of the health insurance industry: pre-existing condition exclusions, taking away your policy when you get sick, lifetime and annual caps, throwing your kids off your policies.

SEABROOK: And some Democrats ripped GOP leaders for being hypocritical. They promised free and open debates and now Republicans are blocking any amendments to their repeal bill. They promised to stop increasing the deficit, but exempted their own priorities from their new rules. Yesterday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the repeal bill would add $230 billion to the deficit. And Republicans wave that off as opinion.

Vermont Democrat Peter Welch simultaneously congratulated and chided House Republicans.

Representative PETER WELCH (Democrat, Vermont): You campaigned effectively. You beat us good. You ran on the agenda of defeating health care and repealing it. Now you're doing it. Own it. Admit what it is you are doing.

SEABROOK: Of course, all of this criticism assumes Republicans would repeal health care and go back to exactly what America had before. But today, GOP leaders added another bill to next week's agenda: a resolution instructing House committees to start building a Republican health care plan.

Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, the Capitol.

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