* Effort to repeal 2010 law unlikely to get past Senate
* Republicans seek to honor campaign pledge to scrap law
* Law's passage was major achievement for Democrat Obama
By Donna Smith
WASHINGTON, Jan 19 The Republican-led U.S.
House of Representatives was set to vote on repeal of President
Barack Obama's healthcare reform law on Wednesday in a mostly
symbolic move that is likely to be scuttled in the Senate.
Republican leaders said they were committed to try to scrap
the law -- signed by Obama last year after a bitter battle in
Congress -- to honor a campaign pledge that helped them win
control of the House and gain seats in the Senate in elections
"Our pledge was to repeal 'Obamacare,'" said House Speaker
John Boehner, using a derisive term for the law. "Why? Because
it is going to increase spending, increase taxes and destroy
jobs in America."
Polls show that Americans are split on the law. An ABC
News/Washington Post poll this week found that more Americans
now believe it will hurt rather than help the struggling U.S.
economy. But the poll also showed that just 18 percent favor
full repeal of the law.
Wednesday's vote is widely seen as a symbolic gesture since
the Democratic-controlled Senate is not expected to take up the
measure even if it wins House passage. If the Senate were to
pass the measure, Obama has vowed to veto any repeal of the
healthcare law, one of his biggest victories in Congress.
Republicans have complained that the law will saddle
businesses with high costs and complicated regulations.
Democrats have heralded the law as an historic move to deliver
health insurance to more than 30 million people who currently
cannot afford coverage while also lowering medical costs and
providing more consumer protections.
The tone of the two-day debate was subdued in the aftermath
of the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson of Democratic Representative
Gabrielle Giffords. Six other people were killed in the attack
that prompted calls for politicians to tone down the rhetoric.
House Republicans cleared the way for a vote on repealing
the healthcare law with a procedural vote held the day before
Giffords was shot and gravely wounded. After the shooting,
Republicans delayed consideration of the bill by a week.
NO TALK OF DEATH PANELS
Gone was Republican talk of "death panels" that surfaced
during the previous debate on the law. For the most part,
Republicans refrained from using the term "job killing," which
they had previously used to describe aspects of the bill. The
name of the bill, however, remains "Repealing the Job-Killing
Health Care Law Act."
Democrats saw the debate as an opportunity to explain some
of what they touted as the benefits of the new law, many of
which have already gone into effect.
"People talk about repeal as political theater or
symbolism," said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary
Kathleen Sebelius. "It isn't symbolic to the 149 million
Americans with health conditions who now are locked out or
priced out of the market."
Her department released a study on Tuesday that found that
as many as 129 million Americans under age 65 have health
problems that could hurt their ability to get health insurance
or force them to pay higher premiums. [ID:nN18139128]
The law will bar insurance companies from denying coverage
to people with pre-existing health conditions.
Some, but not all, of the provisions in the law have gone
into effect. They include requiring insurers to cover children
with pre-existing conditions, allowing young people to stay on
their parents' health insurance until age 26, and creating
temporary high-risk pools to help people with medical
conditions obtain health coverage.
Other elements such as the creation of insurance exchanges
to help individuals and small business compare and purchase
plans do not go into effect until 2014.
A requirement that all Americans obtain health coverage is
set to take effect in 2014. The delay will provide time for a
legal challenge on the purchase requirement to work its way
through the courts.
Federal courts have issued differing positions on whether
whether the mandate to purchase health insurance is permissible under the U.S. Constitution. The question is expected to wind
up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
(Reporting by Donna Smith; Editing by Will Dunham)