The House passed the ObamaCare replacement bill on Thursday by a vote of 253-175, with 14 Democrats voting with all of the Republicans. The resolution directs four House committees to immediately begin drafting solutions to replace the existing job-killing healthcare law.
While the GOP House passed the repeal of ObamaCare on Wednesday, the Democratic Senate is blocking a vote on it. So while the repeal is on hold, the House will begin the the process to defund and replace ObamaCare.
“We just want a whole different approach to health care. Theirs was a government centered approach, and we’d like to see a patient centered approach,” Rep. David Camp (R-Mich.) Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee said after the vote. “That’s why we thought it was so important to repeal the bill. If a tree is rotten, you cut it down. And if we can’t cut it down and succeed all at once, we’ll prune it branch by branch.”
Replacing ObamaCare will be done through the four committees with jurisdiction over aspects of health care: Energy and Commerce (chaired by Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan), Education and Workforce (chaired by Rep. John Kline of Minnesota), Judiciary (chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas), and Ways and Means (Camp).
The four committee chairs said after the vote that they will be moving through the regular order. “We’re going to have hearings, markups in subcommittees before it gets to the full committee. It will be a very transparent process,” said Upton.
The process of replacing ObamaCare with a less onerous, fiscally responsible Republican healthcare plan will start immediately, but the full process will take many months. However, the chairmen said that some of the legislation is going to start moving as soon as next week.
Smith said that he is introducing a medical liability reform bill next week, and he expects it to be considered by the House “in the coming weeks.” The Judiciary Committee Chair also said he will be holding a hearing in the coming weeks on the constitutionality of the healthcare law.
Also, Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Penn. ) introduced on Thursday the Protect Life Act, which would codify the ban on federal funding of abortions. Upton said on Thursday that “we intend to move that bill quickly through the committee.” ObamaCare does include the pro-life language, but was passed with a deal by President Obama to sign an executive order with the ban. The Republican House wants to make the ban on taxpayer funded abortions into a law.
Upton’s committee will handle the bulk of the replacement legislation. I spoke with him last weekend about his plans moving forward. He said the committee is not yet organized, so the first hearing will not be until next month.
“Our kick-off hearing will be in February with the governors — Republican and Democrat– to get their advice. I made a pledge early on that we’re going to use the governors as it relates to health care, particularly in our committee’s jurisdiction, and Medicaid is a giant part,” said Upton.
Upton said that he expects bipartisan support for several of the replacement provisions. “There are a number of areas where I think there is common ground. Pre-existing conditions, shopping across state lines, tort reform — even the President supported tort reform,” he said. .
Asked if the GOP replacement will be one giant bill or many smaller bills, Upton said that the leadership would make the determination. “I don’t think that decision has been made yet,” he told me.
As for the timing of the legislation, he said that “there are a number of things that we can do over the next number of months to come back and be the replacement piece of what we passed on the repeal side.”
While replacing ObamaCare will take many months, the House Republicans will simultaneously work to defund it. The House GOP will attempt to defund by cutting the programs in the spending bills from the Appropriations Committee.
The American people made their voices heard. The repeal, replacement and defunding of ObamaCare is off to a strong start.