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U.S. House clears first hurdle to revoking ACA

"Republicans didn’t create this problem, but we’re going to fix it," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Friday.

By Doug G. Ware
U.S. House clears first hurdle to revoking ACA
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., walks with Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Republican leadership at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 4. Friday, the House passed a budget bill that contained an amendment to authorize the revocation of the Affordable Care Act, which has provided medical coverage for millions of uninsured Americans for more than five years. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- After the Senate ground out an amendment following a marathon late-night session earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted Friday to pass a budget bill that represents the first step in killing President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

The House voted 227-198 to approve the bill -- entirely along party lines -- which directs four congressional committees to draft legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Nine Republicans and all Democrats voted against the measure.

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Ten lawmakers did not vote, including four who have been named to President-elect Donald Trump's administration -- CIA appointee Mike Pompeo, Health and Human Services nominee Tom Price, Interior pick Ryan Zinke and budget director Mick Mulvaney.

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The step follows weeks of rhetoric by GOP lawmakers and Trump that promised to begin dismantling the program, colloquially known as "Obamacare," which has been on the books for more than six years.

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"Deep down, everyone knows Obamacare is failing," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a statement. "Republicans didn't create this problem, but we're going to fix it."

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Congressional Republicans have responded to Trump's urging, even though a replacement program almost certainly doesn't yet exist -- a proposition Democratic leaders have warned will have severe consequences.

Nonetheless, victorious Republicans applauded the beginning of the end for the ACA Friday -- and said the lack of any successor legislation isn't important.

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"I don't think you want to be a Republican and go home and say, 'I voted against the first step in repealing Obamacare because I wasn't sure what the last step would be,'" Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said. "I think that's a pretty weak position and I think most of our members know that."

If you ask Democrats, however, they would say weak is a good adjective to describe the U.S. insurance industry's near future -- as well as possibly millions of sick patients -- if Trump's party succeeds in trashing a sweeping program that's given an untold number of uninsured Americans secure coverage.

"With [the] House GOP sprinting ahead without a plan, it's worth remembering how carefully we considered [the] ACA," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a tweet Friday afternoon.

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The budget bill now opens the door for two panels in each chamber to actively pen legislation to strike down the ACA, which would then go through the usual process for passage -- culminating with a signature from Trump in the White House.

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Whatever Republicans come up with to replace the program, some lawmakers have said many details of that effort will be worked out during a congressional retreat in Philadelphia later this month.

"The 'Unaffordable' Care Act will soon be history!" Trump tweeted Friday morning.

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