Incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made a brash move by beginning Republican control of the House with a vote to repeal ObamaCare. The unpopular, expensive health-care reform law was both the jewel in the crown of the Democratic Congress and one of the main reasons Democrats lost in the Midterm Elections.
Boehner will be sworn in as Speaker of the House on Wednesday, but he and his fellow GOP leaders already put forth a one-page bill to repeal ObamaCare this week. They will start debate on the rule on Friday, and will vote on the repeal on January 12.
“We just need to repeal it as the American people have spoken out and said,” said the incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Tuesday. “And we need to go about making sure we resume a path towards the kind of health care people expect, as well as an economic environment that provides more certainty for growth.”
On Monday evening, the Republicans announced the timing of the repeal. They also posted online the text of the rule, repeal bill, and replacement option bill.
By Tuesday morning, the Democrats were in front of TV cameras railing against the repeal bill. The rest of the day on Capitol Hill was filled with Republican and Democrat leaders holding dueling press conferences and sending out rapid-fire press releases to debate the repeal of health care.
On her last day as Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) held her press conference in a large TV studio, surrounded by her Democrat minority leadership team.
Meanwhile, Cantor held his “pen and pad” for print reporters in his new office’s conference room. (Cantor has taken over a large suite of offices with a view of the National Mall, while Pelosi has moved to a smaller space without the prime view.)
Cantor sat alone at the end of the table, as reporters packed in so tightly that they couldn’t take notes without bumping each other. Boehner did not hold any public events on Tuesday, nor did any of the other Republican leaders.
The leaders’ battle of words through the media showed their very different perspectives of the need for and success of the health-care reform legislation passed a year ago.
The Cost: Estimates of the entitlement spending for ObamaCare range from $1 trillion to as high as $2.6 trillion.
The Democrats had the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score the bill, meaning CBO estimated its cost in government spending over time, and then said the tax hikes in the bill made the government spending on health care cost-neutral over 10 years. Pelosi argued that ObamaCare actually helped the budget.
But, the Republicans deny the CBO’s accounting accurately reflects the true cost.
“Most people understand that the CBO did the job it was asked to do by the then-Democrat Majority. And it was really comparing apples to oranges because it talked about 10 years worth of tax hikes and six years worth of benefits,” said Cantor. “Everyone knows, beyond the 10-year window, this bill has the potential to bankrupt the federal government as well as the states.”
Basically, the Democrats used budget tricks to make their health-care bill seem less harmful to the deficit than it will be.
“We all know that the bill that was passed by the Democratic majority was full of budget gimmickry. And so, what we are going to do is we are going to approach the real cost of what health care reform should be,” said Cantor.
Incoming Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) estimates that the law will actually add more than $700 billion in debt over 10 years. Ryan’s committee gives the $700 billion estimate from $115 billion in discretionary costs, $521 billion in double-counting, and $208 billion for a long-term “doc-fix” (minus the $143 billion of claimed savings.)
Also, the CBO does not account for the cost of ObamaCare outside of 10 years. But, the law does not fully go into full effect until 2014, and will not be fully implemented until 2023. So the actual cost of the legislation is estimated to be as high as $2.6 trillion after it is fully implemented.
Pelosi seems to have become a fiscal conservative in the last few weeks. “To say we’re going to repeal it is, just as has been said by my colleagues, is to do very serious violence to the national debt and deficit.”
The Democrats claim that ObamaCare was necessary because it would lower the cost of health care (it did not) and help with the deficit (nope).
Pelosi said “one of the main reasons” health-care reform was necessary was “the sustainability of the cost of health care to individual families, to small businesses, to corporate America, to our economy.”
“When it comes to Leader Reid, to Leader Pelosi, and their statements of that sort, they clearly don’t understand what Americans want as far as health care is concerned,” responded Cantor.
The multitude of new government regulations in ObamaCare has already put many small business in financial straits, preventing them from creating new jobs. The law mandates that every small business owner file a 1099 tax form for a transaction over $600. The tax credits to offset this regulation were so far under the actual cost that small businesses have suffered and the economy stagnated.
The Next Steps: Boehner is putting the ObamaCare repeal up for a vote because it was part of his “Pledge to America.” However, with the Democrat-controlled Senate and President Obama in the White House, the repeal is more of a symbolic move.
“The imperative right now is to make sure that we send a repeal bill across the floor reflecting our willingness to listen to the American people,” said Cantor, who as Majority Leader, sets the floor schedule.
Also, the House Republicans are forcing Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to show the Democrat-controlled Senate is against repealing ObamaCare.
“The Senate can serve as a cul-de-sac if that’s what it wants to be,” said Cantor. “But again, they will have to answer to the American people.”
The House GOP will move quickly to defund ObamaCare and draft replacement legislation. The committees will start writing new health-care reform with less regulation, cost and negative consumer impact.
Three committees that have jurisdiction over health care are: Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and the Workforce.
Since the current Continuing Resolution (CR) funding the government runs out on March 4, the GOP House can immediately start to use the budgetary process to defund ObamaCare.
ObamaCare repeal is a first step for the Republicans to show the American people that their voices were heard loud and clear on November 2.