Oba­macare re­peal clears first hur­dle

Newly ap­proved bud­get bill pre­vents Se­nate Dems from block­ing GOP ac­tion

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE -

As­cen­dant Repub­li­cans drove a bud­get through Congress on Fri­day that gives them an early but crit­i­cal vic­tory in their cru­sade to scrap Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care over­haul.

The vote trains the spot­light on whether they and Don­ald Trump can de­liver on re­peated pledges to not just erase that statute but re­place it.

Demon­strat­ing the GOP’s will­ing­ness to plunge into a defin­ing but risky bat­tle, the House used a near party-line 227-198 roll call to ap­prove a mea­sure that pre­vents Se­nate Democrats from de­rail­ing a fu­ture bill, thus far un­writ­ten, an­nulling and re­shap­ing Obama’s land­mark 2010 law. The bud­get, which won Se­nate ap­proval early Thurs­day, does not need the pres­i­dent’s sig­na­ture.

U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-Kin­der­hook, voted with the GOP ma-

jor­ity on Fri­day. Rep. Sean Pa­trick Maloney, D- Cold Spring, voted “no.”

“The ‘Un­af­ford­able’ Care Act will soon be his­tory!” Trump tweeted Fri­day in a dig at the statute’s name, the Af­ford­able Care Act. Trump takes the pres­i­den­tial oath next Fri­day.

The real work looms in com­ing months as the new ad­min­is­tra­tion and con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans write leg­is­la­tion to erase much of the health care law, com­monly called Oba­macare, and re­place it with a GOP ver­sion. Repub­li­cans have in­ter­nal di­vi­sions over what that would look like, though past GOP pro­pos­als have cut much of the ex­ist­ing law’s fed­eral spend­ing and eased cov­er­age re­quire­ments while re­ly­ing more on tax ben­e­fits and let­ting states make de­ci­sions.

Fri­day’s vote was pre­ceded by de­bate that saw hy­per­bole on both sides and un­der­scored how the two par­ties have al­ter-

nate- uni­verse views of Obama’s over­haul. Democrats praised it for ex­tend­ing cov­er­age to tens of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans, help­ing fam­i­lies af­ford poli­cies and se­niors buy pre­scrip­tions, while Repub­li­cans fo­cused on the ris­ing pre­mi­ums and de­ductibles and lim­ited ac­cess to doc­tors and in­sur­ers that have plagued many.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the health care law was “so ar­ro­gant and so con­trary to our found­ing prin­ci­ples” and had not de­liv­ered on Obama’s prom­ises to lower costs and pro­vide more choice.

“We have to step in be­fore things get worse. This is noth­ing short of a res­cue mis­sion,” Ryan said.

“Our ex­per­i­men­ta­tion in Soviet-style cen­tral plan­ning of our health care sys­tem has been an ab­ject fail­ure,” said fresh­man Rep. Jodey Ar­ring­ton, R-Texas.

House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Ryan was ped­dling “mythol­ogy” and said the GOP was mov­ing to­ward wors­en­ing health care for con­sumers.

“They want to cut ben- efits and run. They want to cut ac­cess and run,” she said of Repub­li­cans.

“This is a sad day in the his­tory of this coun­try as Repub­li­cans be­gin the process of de­stroy­ing health care in Amer­ica,” said Rep. Ha­keem Jef­fries, D-N.Y., ar­gu­ing the GOP has no re­place­ment in hand. “All you have is smoke and mir­rors, and the Amer­i­can peo­ple are get­ting ready to get screwed.”

Nine Repub­li­cans joined all vot­ing Democrats in op­pos­ing the bud­get bill.

The bill’s ap­proval means Se­nate Democrats won’t be al­lowed to fil­i­buster the fu­ture re­peal-and-re­place bill — a pivotal ad­van­tage for Repub­li­cans. They con­trol the Se­nate 52- 48, but it takes 60 votes to end fil­i­busters, or end­less pro­ce­dural de­lays that can scut­tle leg­is­la­tion.

Repub­li­cans have made an­nulling Obama’s law and re­plac­ing it a top goal for the past seven years. GOP rifts and an Obama veto pre­vented them from achiev­ing any­thing other than hold­ing scores of votes that served as po­lit­i­cal mes­sag­ing.

AP FILE

House Speaker Paul Ryan speaks at a Capi­tol Hill news con­fer­ence on Jan. 5.

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