* Effort to repeal 2010 law unlikely to get past Senate
* Republicans seek to honor campaign pledge to scrap law
* Repeal debate toned down after Arizona shooting
(Recasts with House vote)
By Donna Smith
WASHINGTON, Jan 19 The Republican-led U.S.
House of Representatives passed legislation that would repeal
President Barack Obama's landmark healthcare reform law on
Wednesday in a mostly symbolic move likely to be scuttled in
The House voted 245-189 to approve the Republican bill that
would scrap the law, which was passed by Congress last year
after a bitter debate and signed by Obama when his fellow
Democrats still controlled both the House and Senate.
The unified House Republicans were joined by three
Democrats in backing the bill, which also needs Senate passage
but is unlikely to get it. The Senate remains under Democratic
control and is not expected to take up the repeal legislation.
Even if the Senate were to pass the measure, Obama has
vowed to veto any effort to repeal the healthcare law, one of
his biggest legislative victories.
Republican leaders said they were committed to trying to
repeal it in order to honor a campaign pledge that helped them
win control of the House and gain seats in the Senate in
congressional elections last November.
"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.
Republicans say the law saddles businesses with high costs
and complicated regulations. Democrats say the law is an
historic move to deliver health insurance to more than 30
million people who currently cannot afford it while also
lowering medical costs and providing more consumer
The law will also bar insurance companies from denying
coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said repealing the law
would damage the economy. "Given where we are, we must do
things that help bolster the recovery, and repealing the
Affordable Care Act would be a step in the wrong direction," he
TONED DOWN DEBATE
A heated debate preceded congressional passage of the law
last year. But the tone of the repeal debate in Congress this
year was subdued in the aftermath of the Jan. 8 shooting in
Tucson of Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who
survived but was gravely wounded.
Six other people were killed in the attack that prompted
calls for politicians to tone down their rhetoric.
Republicans delayed debate on the bill for a week after
Giffords was shot. Lawmakers from both sides largely avoided
Boehner on Wednesday thanked House members for the
Democrats say the law already is helping millions of people
who had been shut or priced out of health insurance.
"Let's be clear, this law is working," said Representative
Sander Levin, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means
Committee. "Repealing it would have real-life consequences for
millions of Americans."
While repeal is expected to fail, House Republicans have
proposed steps to slow implementation of reforms by cutting
funding in a spending bill that will debated in coming weeks.
Some, but not all, of the provisions in the law have gone
into effect. They include allowing young people to stay on
their parents' health insurance until age 26, improving drug
savings for the elderly on the government's Medicare insurance
program, 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.
Federal courts have issued differing positions on whether
whether a mandate that Americans purchase health insurance is
permissible under the U.S. Constitution. The question is
expected to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
(Additional reporting by Kim Dixon; Editing by Will