Congress completes first step
toward Obamacare repeal

By Nicole Gaudiano | USA Today | January 13, 2017

Paul Ryan, U.S. Speaker of the House of RepresentativesHouse members passed a resolution Friday paving the way for a swift repeal of Obamacare, following Senate passage on Thursday.

The House voted 227-198 to approve the 2017 budget resolution that instructs committees to write legislation repealing the law. No Democrats voted for the resolution.

The repeal of the 2010 Affordable Care Act one of President Obama's signature accomplishments is a top goal for President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans, who point to rising premiums, high deductibles and fewer choices for patients as insurers pull out of the program.

"This law is collapsing while we speak," said House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin on Friday. "We have to step in before things get worse. This is nothing short of a rescue mission."

Leading up to the vote, some Republicans had expressed concerns about repealing the law without agreeing on a replacement. But lawmakers voted almost entirely along party lines, with only nine Republicans opposing the measure.

Democrats repeatedly slammed Republicans for having no alternative plan, and they said a repeal will jeopardize the health care of 30 million Americans. They argue that a repeal will leave people with pre-existing medical conditions unable to find coverage, and increase the nation's budget deficit by $353 billion over the next 10 years as the tax and fee provisions that pay for Obamacare are gutted.

"It is a cruel thing to do to take away people's health care," Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said on the House floor Friday. "We are going to fight you every step of the way."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said Republicans have had six years since the passage of Obamacare to propose an alternative, but they haven't done so. She argued the repeal would damage Medicare and Medicaid, which are now wedded to the Affordable Care Act.

"They want to cut benefits and run," she said. "They want to cut savings and run. They want to cut access and run. They want to cut Medicare and run, Medicaid, and run. The list goes on and on."

Ryan said the goal is a patient-centered system with more options, lower costs and greater patient control over coverage.

"As we work to get there, we will make sure that there is a stable transition period so that people don't have the rug pulled out from under them," he said.

Friday's House vote follows Senate passage of the resolution early Thursday morning after a late-night voting session that ended with no changes to the measure. It passed 51-48, with Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky as the only Republican to oppose it.

The resolution would allow the eventual repeal legislation to pass with a simple majority, avoiding a filibuster by Senate Democrats.

Trump congratulated the Senate on Twitter on Thursday and tweeted Friday morning, "The 'Unaffordable' Care Act will soon be history!"

Unaffordable Care Act tweet January 13, 2017

At a press conference Wednesday, Trump said he is prepared to offer a detailed replacement plan as soon as his nominee for Health and Human Services secretary Republican Rep. Tom Price of Georgia is confirmed by the Senate.