Health Care

Republican-Led House Votes To Repeal Health Law

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The Republican-run House voted Wednesday to repeal last year's health care law. Was the debate more measured than it might have been a week ago? So far, the Senate is not expected to take up the bill. NPR's Andrea Seabrook talks to Melissa Block.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block.

As we speak, Republicans in the House of Representatives are steaming toward a repeal of the health care law. It's a major goal for the GOP newly in charge of the House, but the effort might just die there. The Senate appears unlikely to even debate the repeal, much less pass it. More about the state of play in the Senate in a few minutes. First, to NPR's Andrea Seabrook, who joins us from the Capitol, where she's watching the House debate.

And, Andrea, why don't you give us a summary of what you've been hearing. Have the arguments about the health care law changed since the law was debated last year or the year before that?

ANDREA SEABROOK: You know, there is some movement forward, Melissa. The Dems are - or the Democrats are talking about the benefits of the law since it has already been enacted now. You know, the fact that people can't be kicked off due to preexisting conditions; they can't be denied coverage; children can stay on their parents' plans up to age 26, so people out of college looking for their first jobs and so on; helping prescription drug coverage for seniors who were in the so-called Medicare doughnut hole.

The same thing for Republicans. They have new data because this bill has been enacted for some months anyway. They're saying that it's, in fact, bad for small businesses, that it creates uncertainty for those small businesses who might otherwise hire new employees, that it creates an unfunded mandate for them, and especially those new - those, you know, dozens and dozens of new tea party members in Congress or at least people who - Republicans who were elected with tea party support are saying it's unconstitutional to mandate that people buy private coverage.

So you see these things are moving - the debates are moving forward, but, you know, the biggest difference between 2009, 2010, when we were debating this, is that now the Republicans are in charge of the House. And that changes the game completely, and, of course, it's why were talking about repealing health care at all.

BLOCK: Right. And, Andrea, any difference in tone? Of course, there's been a lot of calls for increased civility in Washington, especially given the Tucson shooting where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was injured. Do you hear any difference in the tone or the tenor of the debate?

SEABROOK: I hear a little it. I mean, it's mainly the same stuff, different year, but the - for example, the Republicans named the bill, their repeal bill, Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act, you know, it's basically the same tenor as before. To be fair, that was -they named it that before the shootings in Tucson.

Some Democrats argue that Republicans, you know, will practically have blood on their hands if they repeal the benefits of, you know, the law that has already been given to people. So, you know, there's some change.

Let me give you a couple of examples. Listen to this piece of tape from the debate. It's Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican, a darling of the tea party, talking about the health care law.

Representative MICHELE BACHMANN (Republican, Minnesota): Obamacare, as we know, is the crown jewel of socialism. It is socialized medicine. The American people spoke soundly and clearly at the ballot box in November. And they said to us, Mr. Speaker, in no uncertain terms, repeal this bill.

SEABROOK: You know, at another time, Melissa, you might hear Michele Bachmann say that with much more force.


SEABROOK: And so I think there is a difference in the tenor of the debate. On the other hand...

BLOCK: Or the volume maybe.

SEABROOK: Yeah. The volume, maybe that's what I was trying to say. And, you know, the - but there's still the specter they bring up of big government in the examining room and all sorts of facts that I think could be debatable. The Democrats, on the other hand, or maybe on the same hand, are reacting as if the Republicans are still screaming.

So listen to Richard Neal here of Massachusetts.

Representative RICHARD NEAL (Democrat, Massachusetts): Obamacare, government takeover, socialism, and the best one of all, death panels. People wonder why the language here is so charged, why it's so incendiary; it's because of the lexicon it has chosen for the purpose of scaring the American people.

SEABROOK: So, I guess, if you were expecting a complete change in debate, you'd be disappointed, but there is some change. There's some difference than there was before, I guess.

BLOCK: Now, Andrea, as we mentioned, the Senate is not likely to even take up this bill. We're going to hear more about that in just a second from your colleague, David Welna. What is the House Republicans' plan B, given that scenario?

SEABROOK: There is a very strong plan B, and it's, you know, basically death by a thousand cuts. And in this case, those cuts are funding cuts. They're going to attack this health care bill with everything they've got and try and dismantle it. And they would say that - use those exact words.

They would like to dismantle this, stop it. They find it to be their mandate, to come in here and shut it down with any means they have, including cutting off budgets for every single part of the law.

BLOCK: Okay. NPR's Andrea Seabrook on Capitol Hill.

Andrea, thanks a lot.

SEABROOK: My pleasure.

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