By Louise Radnofsky
An attempt to repeal the federal health-care law passed the Republican-controlled House 229-195 Thursday evening, with two of the repeal votes coming from Democrats.
More than 70 freshmen Republicans had pushed House Speaker John Boehner to give them a chance to go on the record in opposing the 2010 law, and many of them made short speeches in the several hours of debate preceding the vote.
"Heavy handed government has been chipping away at your freedom," said Rep. Trey Radel of Florida.
Reps. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Jackie Walorski of Indiana were among several GOP lawmakers who sought to tie the law to the controversy about the Internal Revenue Service, arguing the agency couldn't be trusted to collect information about individuals' health insurance plans next year or administer penalties for people who don't have coverage.
Senior Republicans took the vote as an opportunity to set out their case against the law, arguing it could make insurance premiums unaffordable and force employers to cut workers' hours.
"We are still fighting. We are still in the trenches," said Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia, a former obstetrician-gynecologist. "Obamacare accomplishes the exact opposite of what the president pledged."
Democratic Reps. Jim Matheson of Utah and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina were the only Democrats to vote for repeal. Both had voted against the law when it passed.
Most Democrats used the vote to criticize Republicans for wasting time in trying to overturn the law again. The Democratic-controlled Senate and President Barack Obama have both made clear they would block any repeal bill from the House.
During the floor debate, Rep. Eliot Engel of New York mocked freshmen Republicans and said he wanted to have a chance to cast another vote against the Defense of Marriage Act, which he opposed in 1996, or to put himself on the record in support of the Civil Rights Act and Social Security Act.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee paid for automated phone calls in the districts of 11 Republicans criticizing them for trying to repeal popular provisions of the law including allowing parents to keep adult children on their insurance plans until their 26th birthdays and requiring insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions.
The White House used the vote to call for supporters of the law to send in stories about how it had helped them, in a mass email with the subject line "A gesture that means something."