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This Week in Washington: ObamaCare Repeal Vote More Than Just Symbolic


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Last week's 245 to 189 House vote to repeal the ObamaCare law ruffled feathers all over Washington. Irked liberals were quick to dismiss the lower chamber's strong rejection of the controversial law as merely a symbolic victory. On the eve of the vote, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said "I don't think it's going anywhere," and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid chastised Republicans for wasting time on "partisan grandstanding."

With opinion polls continuing to reflect a majority of Americans against the controversial health care reform law, and with more than half of the states currently suing the federal government over the law's constitutionality, Congressional Republicans have the political wind at their backs. You would think after their public shellacking last November -- largely a rebuke of their health care law -- the left would be a bit worried. Judging from their actions before last week's vote, there is some handwringing going on within the administration.

Last Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched a major public relations blitz complete with puffed-up doomsday scenarios that half of all non-elderly Americans could be denied health care due to pre-existing conditions should ObamaCare be repealed. The drastic claims were laughable as the new health care reform provisions will not take effect for several more years and a stop-gap program the administration already has in place has only attracted the interest of 8,000 Americans.

In fact, the House Republican health care reform alternative legislation, which was denied a vote by former Speaker Pelosi in 2009, would have helped Americans with pre-existing conditions to secure and keep their health care coverage. The administration was deliberately deceptive in implying that House Republicans would simply repeal the president's health care law without addressing concerns such as pre-existing conditions and affordability that all sides agree should be addressed.

This last-ditch approach to frighten Americans into changing their stance against ObamaCare had as much impact as recent attempts by the left to cast those who favor repeal as "uncivil." In contrast, it appeared much of the heated rhetoric that was uttered on the House floor the day of the vote came not from the right side of the aisle, but from the left. One Democrat congressman even compared the effort to repeal ObamaCare to Nazi propaganda tactics.

The repeal of the health care law does not stop with the House vote. The House-passed repeal legislation is on its way to the Senate where Majority Leader Harry Reid has struck a defiant tone, refusing to allow a vote. However, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has made clear his determination to force the Senate to consider the repeal bill even if Senator Reid stands in the way.

For those who dismiss Senator McConnell's chances, I would remind them that the American people can achieve surprising things when they speak with a loud voice. One only has to look back to the final days of the 111th Congress when an outraged public overflowed Senate telephones demanding the scrapping of a budget bill stuffed with $8.2 billion in earmarks. It was pulled. If the American people want the Senate to vote on the repeal of ObamaCare, it's likely they will get their vote.

Repeal is First Step to Fix Health Care System:

It's important to recognize that the repeal of ObamaCare is but one strategy of several that conservatives in the House will employ to reverse the costly and unpopular law. The House has considerable leverage in the reshaping of ObamaCare.

By clear authority of the Constitution, Congress has control over federal spending. The Republican House is already at work to identify ways to cut off funding to implement many provisions of the president's misguided health care law. This will not occur immediately, but will unfold as the House takes up federal spending legislation in the spring and will continue well into 2011.

It's also important to note that there was another vote in the House last week. Lawmakers voted to start the process of writing a replacement health care reform plan more in keeping with the needs and desires of the American people.

Our goal is not to craft another big government bill, like the ObamaCare law, but rather to carefully identify ways to improve our current free-market health care system, retaining its innovation and quality while increasing access to care, enabling those with pre-existing conditions to get affordable health care and ensuring that people can keep the plans and doctors they currently have if they so choose.

The new Congress is just beginning to deliver on the pledge we made to all Americans to fix health care without breaking what's already working well.

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