The House of Representatives voted Wednesday evening to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — President Obama’s signature accomplishment and the single most consequential piece of legislation Democrats passed in the 111th Congress.
All Republicans and 3 Democrats voted for the repeal measure, while 189 Democrats voted to preserve the new reforms. The final vote was 245-189. The three Democrats who voted for repeal were Reps. Mike Ross (D-AR), Mike McIntyre (D-NC) and Dan Boren (D-OK). The only member who didn’t vote was Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who remains in the hospital following an assassination attempt on Jan. 8.
The vote fulfills one of the GOP’s main promises to its base ahead of the November midterms, when they retook control of the House from the Democrats. But it’s a Pyrrhic victory for conservatives. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has signaled he won’t hold a vote on repeal, and any effort by the GOP to force that vote will be met with fierce resistance by Democrats who still hold a majority in the upper chamber.
After being drubbed for supporting the law in the months before the elections, Democrats have regrouped, with a reform-friendly caucus, and are finally fighting back.
Armed with polling data that suggests that the public isn’t staunchly in the GOP’s corner on this issue, Democrats are challenging the Republicans to contend with the fact that repeal now means rescinding benefits voters are already enjoying.
At a press briefing yesterday, a reporter asked House Majority Leader Eric Cantor whether repeal would require seniors to refund checks they received from the government under the law’s provisions to close the Medicare Part D donut hole.
“These checks were received under existing law now,” Cantor said. “If a repeal bill passes and there’s any uncertainty as to whether those checks would have to be recaptured, we can speak to that then. But no, the intention is not to require seniors to return the $250 checks that they received under the operation of the law.”
Democrats warn that repeal would have catastrophic consequences. Adults aged 18-26 would likely be kicked off their parent’s insurance, children with pre-existing medical conditions would lose coverage, and untold scores of consumers would see their policies rescinded when they get sick — an old practice that the new law expressly forbids.
But Republicans aren’t cowed by this at all — perhaps because they know actual repeal isn’t going to happen anytime soon, if at all.
Expect them to cite the handful of Democratic votes as proof that repeal is a bipartisan proposition — that the only thing partisan about the health care fight is the law itself.
[Ed. note: This story was updated after publication.]
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.