WASHINGTON, July 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. House voted largely on party lines Tuesday to set up 5 hours of debate on a bill repealing the federal healthcare law.
The vote was 240-182, with four Democrats joining all voting Republicans to approve the debate, which sets up a vote on the Republican "Repeal of Obamacare Act" Wednesday, The Hill newspaper reported.
Democrats questioned whether a debate was needed at all.
"Never in the history of this Congress ... has anybody voted this many times on a single issue," The Hill quoted Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., as saying on the House floor. "And why? Because we don't have anything else to do. We're not trying to make law here, we're making political points."
But Republicans argued the repeal bill is necessary, contending employees are losing their company-sponsored health plans as companies react to the 2010 Affordable Care Act, approved by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote last month.
While the act was previously approved by Congress before it was signed by President Obama, Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., likened the federal healthcare law to Boss Hogg, the crooked county commissioner in the 1970s TV series "The Dukes of Hazzard," the newspaper said.
"The only healthcare that citizens of this country can access are those approved by the boss," The Hill quoted Gingrey as saying. "If you like what you currently have, you can't keep it, according to the boss. The boss and his henchmen, who help fund this tyranny, they include the biggest permanent tax increase on Americans, borne in large part by middle-class families and the employers who give the jobs."
Republicans have tried more than two dozen times to derail, defund or replace the signature legislation of Obama's time in office, this time with a blitz of interviews and testimony in debate before the Wednesday vote.
"If you give us more elected representatives to fix this problem, we will fix this problem in 2013," House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin told CNBC.
Republicans say the act will lead to rising healthcare costs while leaving millions of Americans uninsured, and they want to start over, CNN said. Democrats say the GOP offers no real healthcare alternative.
For his part, the president has made it clear he will veto any measure to repeal healthcare reform if it gets through Congress, which is highly unlikely with Democrats in control of Senate.
"The last thing the Congress should do is re-fight old political battles and take a massive step backward by repealing basic protections that provide security for the middle class," the White House said in a statement Monday.