US House of Representatives votes for health care repeal
The US House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to repeal an overhaul of the country's health care system that marked President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement in his first two years in office, dpa reported.
The repeal, approved along mostly party lines in a 245-189 vote, marked a symbolic effort that has little chance of becoming law. It fulfilled a promise by Republicans who took control of the lower chamber this month in the aftermath of November's congressional elections.
"Repeal means keeping a promise," Republican John Boehner, who earlier this month became speaker of the House, said shortly before the vote. "When you look at the facts and when you listen to the people, this is a promise worth keeping."
The Senate remains controlled by Obama's left-leaning Democrats, and the chamber's Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he has no plans to bring up the legislation. Obama would be certain to veto any repeal bill that did make it to his desk.
The legislation signed by Obama in March marked the most ambitious effort to overhaul the US health industry in four decades and aimed to extend insurance to about 50 million people who have no coverage.
Republicans have repeatedly derided the bill as a "government takeover" of the largely private health care system and mounted court challenges against the bill's requirement that Americans purchase insurance.
The two days of debate ahead of the repeal vote prompted lawmakers from both sides to wade back into a debate that had dominated US politics for much of Obama's first two years in office.
Boehner appeared to ease the tone of his remarks in light of the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords earlier this month, an attack that provoked a debate in the United States about the nature of its political discourse.
Other lawmakers were less muted in their criticisms. Republican Congressman Devin Nunes slammed the legislation, saying it espoused "failed socialist policies (that) re-emerged from the dustbin of history."
Democrats sought an opening in defending the bill's most popular provisions that have already come into effect, including preventing insurance companies from refusing to cover people with pre-existing health conditions.
"Today a bill has come to the floor to repeal patients' rights, to put insurance companies back in charge of the health of the American people, and to balloon the deficit," said Nancy Pelosi, the chamber's former speaker and now leader of the minority Democrats.
The health care reform debate is certain to continue well beyond Wednesday's repeal effort. Republican lawmakers have pledged to cut funding and find other ways to stymie the bill's implementation in the coming years.
Obama pledged Tuesday to work with Republicans to find further ways to improve the country's health care system, but urged them to work within the confines of the existing legislation.
"I'm willing and eager to work with both Democrats and Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act. But we can't go backward," Obama said.