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Lawmakers In The House Try Again In 2016 To Repeal Obamacare


Well, the House of Representatives is now back to work. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan has already decided on the first order of business, and it's a pretty big one.


PAUL RYAN: The House will put an Obamacare repeal bill on the floor and pass it and put it on the president's desk.

GREENE: Repealing Obamacare. Well, this sets the stage for a showdown with the White House over the president's namesake health care law, and NPR's Scott Horsley is here to talk about this.

Hey Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you David.

GREENE: So the House has already voted to repeal Obamacare dozens of times now. Is this vote special in some way?

HORSLEY: David, this is the first time the U.S. Senate has also voted for repeal.

GREENE: They've already voted to repeal it?

HORSLEY: For a long time, when Democrats controlled the Senate they were able to block Republican initiatives like this. And even though Democrats are now in the minority in the Senate they still have a filibuster. So usually it takes 60 votes for the Republicans to do anything, and they don't have that. In this case though, the Senate Republicans were able to use those special reconciliation rules to pass the Obamacare repeal measure with just a simple majority, and so instead of being bottled up like so many other efforts to repeal the ACA, this one has already cleared the Senate and that means today's House vote will send it, as Speaker Ryan promised, to the president's desk.

GREENE: OK so it is special. You've got both chambers that will likely have voted for this. Presumably, the president is not going to go along with this.

HORSLEY: He is not going to go along (laughter). The White House has been very clear that the president will veto this bill. The administration says, to repeal the Affordable Care Act would take health insurance away from some 17 million people who've gotten coverage under the law. They also say it would weaken protection for another 150 million people who still get insurance through their employers. So there's never been any doubt the president would use his veto pen to defend the health care law. In this case, he has an extra incentive to do so because the bill would also strip funding from Planned Parenthood. So two big targets for the president.

GREENE: So what happens after this? We've got this largely symbolic vote by Congress, veto by the president. I mean, does this debate get sort of put to rest at some point?

HORSLEY: Not at all. The Republicans plan to schedule a veto override vote in the weeks ahead. They do not have the two-thirds majority they need to overturn the president's veto, but that'll be another symbolic gesture by the GOP. And this will also help to frame the contrast for the 2016 presidential election. All of the Republican candidates running for the White House have promised to undo Obamacare. All the Democrats have promised to preserve it. So voters will have a chance to weigh in on this debate just as they did in 2012. You remember back then when the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, Mitt Romney said, if we want to get rid of Obamacare, we're going to have to put a Republican in the White House. Four years later, that's still the case.

GREENE: So it's going to remain in the political conversation obviously this year. But in terms of substance, process, the chances of this law actually ending - I mean, you've got a lot of Americans, polls show, who have very negative feelings about this health care law. But you've got a law that's been in place now for six years. I mean, could it be undone somehow?

HORSLEY: You know, David, there's been a school of thought for a long time among supporters of Obamacare that once the American people get accustomed to these protections they're going to be very hard to undo, that Republicans would actually be taking subsidies away from people, denying coverage to millions and that that would just be politically untenable. We're seeing right now something of a test case in Kentucky, where the newly elected Republican governor campaigned against Obamacare, but he has softened his rhetoric somewhat since he's actually taken office. At first he wanted to roll back the state's expansion of Medicaid, which was very widespread in Kentucky. Now he's talking about modifying it instead. However, there's been no such softening of the rhetoric in Congress or on the White House campaign trail. So Republicans insist they still want to get rid of this law root and branch.

GREENE: All right. NPR's Scott Horsley talking to us about the vote in the House today to repeal Obamacare. It follows on the heels of a vote in the Senate and expected presidential veto at some point too. Thanks Scott.

HORSLEY: My pleasure David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.

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