New name, old campaign as Republicans wage war on "Obamacare"

WASHINGTON Wed Jul 11, 2012 3:49am IST

U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney gives his reaction to the Supreme Court's upholding key parts of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare overhaul law on a rooftop overlooking the U.S. Capitol in Washington June 28, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney gives his reaction to the Supreme Court's upholding key parts of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare overhaul law on a rooftop overlooking the U.S. Capitol in Washington June 28, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, they have introduced by their own count 30 bills to get rid of or gut the law they call "Obamacare," bearing titles such as the "Reclaiming Individual Liberty Act," the "repeal the Job killing health care law" act and the "NObamacare Act of 2012."

On Tuesday they began debate on the 31st, the "Repeal of the Obamacare Act," which is certain to win passage when the House votes on Wednesday and just as certain to go no further, since the Senate and White House are both in Democratic hands.

It will be the second time the House has voted an outright repeal of the Obama administration's healthcare law. The first came just after Republicans won control of the chamber in the 2010 election.

The main change between then and now was the Supreme Court's ruling on June 28 upholding the law as a valid exercise of Congress' taxing power.

Representative Patrick Tiberi was among the Republicans who cited the court's ruling during the debate in support of the argument that, contrary to the Obama administration's claim, the law was a tax increase.

It's "a tax hike on the middle class," said Republican Representative Diane Black.

In response, Democratic Representative Frank Pallone argued that the law is actually a "tax cut," because the individual mandate requiring purchase of healthcare means Americans will no longer have to foot the bill for treatment of the uninsured.

Republicans make no pretense that they can repeal the healthcare law. Rather, the House vote is aimed at scoring political points and turning up the heat on Obama and his fellow Democrats in advance of the November 6 congressional and presidential elections.

'DO EVERYTHING TO STOP IT'

"The American people do not want to go down the path of Obamacare," House Speaker John Boehner declared on Tuesday shortly before his chamber began consideration of the new bill.

"That's why we voted over 30 times to repeal it, defund it, replace it," Boehner said. "We are resolved to have this law go away and we are going to do everything we can to stop it."

Democratic Representative Sander Levin said during the debate Tuesday that the House was merely "going through the motions" once again.

Democratic Representative Jim McDermott called it "a pointless time-wasting exercise. The game is over," he said.

Public support for the healthcare law, despite some fluctuation, is divided just as it was in 2010. Neither side has made significant lasting headway.

Some recent polling has suggested that the law is of low importance to voters compared to other issues. A Washington Post-ABC News poll published Tuesday showed more voters than in the past saying the healthcare law will not be a factor when they cast their vote in November.

Another poll - a Kaiser Family Foundation survey taken after the Supreme Court upheld the law's constitutionality late last month - found that 51 percent of independents and 82 percent of Democrats said opponents should move on to other issues. But 69 percent of Republican respondents said they want to see efforts continued to rollback the law.

TARGETING HOUSE OPPONENTS OF THE LAW

The House Democratic Campaign Committee (DCCC), sensing a possible shift in public opinion on the healthcare law, began a campaign after the Supreme Court ruling that targets seven House Republican opponents of the law.

In campaign ads, the DCCC accuses them of being more interested in protecting insurance company campaign donors than helping meet the healthcare needs of their own constituents.

Explaining why Republicans would want to continue debating the law when there is no chance of repealing it, Ron Bonjean, a former House Republican leadership aide turned political strategist, said the showdowns on healthcare, as well as on tax cuts later this year, "will be two of the most significant votes that members will take in this Congress."

"It will show voters who's for creating jobs and who's for raising taxes," Bonjean said.

A spokesman for House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi fired back: "Americans are looking for jobs, and Republicans are looking to score cheap political points with message bills to nowhere."

(Editing by Fred Barbash and Philip Barbara)

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