Congress To Complete First Step To Repealing Health Law

Jan 13, 2017

Congress is on the cusp of completing the first — and by far the easiest — step toward gutting President Barack Obama's divisive health care law.

Friday's vote in the House would adopt a House-Senate measure to make it easier for a subsequent "Obamacare" repeal bill to advance through the Senate without the threat of a Democratic filibuster.

The legislation doesn't need to be signed by the president and wouldn't actually change a word of the hotly contested health care law. But its passage is crucial if Republicans controlling Congress are to keep their longstanding promise to scuttle the law, which has delivered health coverage to about 20 million people but is saddled with problems such as rapidly rising premiums and large co-payments.

The timetable for the upcoming repeal measure is uncertain, but Republicans want to pass it as quickly as possible. The pending legislation would allow a follow-up bill to pass without having to clear the 60-vote filibuster hurdle in the Senate, where Republicans control 52 seats and Democrats are gearing up for an epic battle.

After pressure from both President-elect Donald Trump and rank-and-file lawmakers, House GOP leaders are now promising to advance legislation to repeal the health law and replace it with something else in tandem.

Trump is promising the public that he will sign legislation to repeal and replace the law soon. Republican leaders are trying to deliver, but it seems as if Trump may be overpromising, given the enormity of the task and the political stakes involved.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., isn't setting a timetable but said Thursday that the early repeal bill would "begin to make important progress" and that Republicans "plan to take on the replacement challenge in manageable pieces, with step-by-step reforms."

McConnell spoke after the Senate approved the preliminary repeal measure by a near party-line 51-48 vote, drawing a Twitter thumbs-up from Trump: "Congrats to the Senate for taking the first step to #RepealObamacare — now it's onto the House!"\