Ryan Scores Dual Wins With Obamacare Repeal Vote

Ryan Scores Dual Wins With Obamacare Repeal Vote
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When it comes to repealing Obamacare, the 62nd time is the charm – sort of.

The Republican-controlled Congress passed a repeal of President Obama’s signature health care law by a 240-181 vote in the House Wednesday, mostly along party lines, handing Speaker Paul Ryan a dual victory in the process.

For the first time since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, Obama will have to pull out a pen and veto legislation dismantling it. The bill would also strip Planned Parenthood of all federal funding.

But it was a long process. Republicans had held multiple votes on repealing the law, but Democrats found various ways to keep the legislation from the president’s desk. It took a complex budget procedure known as reconciliation that allowed the Senate to pass the bill while avoiding a Democratic attempt to filibuster, along with Wednesday’s House vote, to make it happen.

While it’s never been in doubt Obama would veto a repeal of his key domestic policy achievement – and Republicans lack the votes to override that veto – GOP lawmakers still considered Wednesday’s vote a win.

“How many times have we been saying we want to put bills on his desk that say who we are and what we believe versus what he believes, that he will veto?” Ryan said Tuesday night on Fox News. He added there would be a vote to override the president’s expected veto later this month.

For Ryan, Wednesday’s vote represented two victories. First, he has bragging rights as the speaker who forced Obama to use the eighth veto of his presidency to protect the health care law. Secondly, having pushed the limits of repealing Obamacare and defunding Planned Parenthood as far as a veto override, the issue is likely now settled until after the election.

“The good news is, with this reconciliation bill, there will finally be some clarity,” Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) told the Washington Post Tuesday. “The president will very glibly veto it. But at least then it will be on him and everybody will know it.” 

This frees Ryan to push the House toward what he envisions for 2016: outlining major policy initiatives that set a clear distinction between Republicans and the White House.

“Ultimately, this is going to require a Republican president,” Ryan said of repealing the law. “That’s why our top priority in 2016 is going to be offering the country a clear choice with a bold, pro-growth agenda.”

That agenda, which Ryan has discussed at length since taking over as speaker in October, includes releasing a long-anticipated replacement plan for the health care law (“Just wait,” Ryan said when asked about that plan Wednesday); a tax reform proposal; welfare reform; and other major policy initiatives. The goal isn’t to pass legislation that, like health care repeal, would never be signed into law by Obama, but to set clear priorities ahead of this year’s election.

“The reason I took this job, and my colleagues know this, is we have to go on offense in 2016 and we have to offer a bold agenda,” Ryan said Tuesday night. “The people of this country who do not like the direction America is heading, which we don’t … we owe them an alternative.”

Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday it was “unfortunate” Republicans were beginning 2016 by voting on “messaging” bills rather than trying to find legislation that could have bipartisan support.

“This may be consistent with … Speaker Ryan’s agenda of essentially doing messaging in 2016 in preparation for the presidential election,” Hoyer said. “If so, that’s unfortunate.” Hoyer added that voting to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood was simply an effort to “energize the base.”

James Arkin is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at jarkin@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesArkin.

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