By Peter Urban
House Republicans joined by a handful of Democrats voted today to repeal last year's health reform law, calling it "too big, too costly and too complicated."
All four members of the Arkansas delegation -- three freshmen Republicans and a Democrat who opposed the massive overhaul last year -- voted for repeal.
After hours of debate, the House voted 245-189 for the bill that would scrap President Barack Obama's signature health reforms.
Rep. Mike Ross, D-Prescott, said his opposition to the bill has been consistent.
"It is too big, too costly and just not right for Arkansas," Ross said.
The vote to repeal, Ross said, is also supported by the bulk of his constituents. He noted that during a telephone town hall meeting Tuesday night 79 percent of 5,128 participants queried said they supported repeal.
Ross told the town hall participants that he would vote to repeal because the law is too complicated to fix piecemeal without adding substantially to the deficit or crippling the private insurance system.
"That's why we need to repeal the bill, start over and work together in a bipartisan and common sense way to pass meaningful reforms that increase coverage, hold insurance companies accountable and reduce long-term costs and spending," Ross said.
Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, said that he was elected in November on a pledge to repeal the health reform bill.
"The repeal of ObamaCare not only takes irresponsible, tax-hiking, job-killing legislation off the books, but is also a solid first step toward a fiscally conscious Congress that legislates with our constituents' interest in mind."
The White House, Senate Democrats and House Democrats who approved the law last year have vociferously defended the reforms this week.
They said that repeal would throw out patient protections that are already helping Americans who otherwise would be denied health insurance because of pre-existing conditions.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report Tuesday estimating that up to 129 million Americans under 65 have pre-existing conditions that could be affected by repeal, including 1.2 million in Arkansas.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has said he would block efforts to bring the bill up for a vote in the Senate.
House Republican leaders are planning to draft narrower reforms that they hope will reduce the cost of health care without what they say are onerous mandates on small businesses and families.
They are also planning to cut off funding needed to implement some key provisions of the law.
And despite Reid's opposition, Ross said that public pressure could force a vote in the Senate.
"I wouldn't write off the potential for repeal in the Senate," he said.
Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, and Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, also voted for repeal. Both participated Tuesday in the floor debate.
Womack said there was "little doubt" the law will cost jobs citing the example of Baldor Electric in Fort Smith where as many as 50 jobs could be eliminated this year through attrition.
Griffin said the law was "loaded with gimmicks" to hide the true cost of expanded federal mandates.
"Once those are accounted for, we find that it adds over $700 billion to the deficit in the next 10 years," he said.