Republicans narrowly voted for a massive healthcare bill on Thursday that repeals and replaces Obamacare, despite opposition from Democrats and an uncertain future as it heads to the Senate.
The vote was 217-213, with 20 Republicans voting against it. As the legislation was passed, some Democrats were heard chanting, “Hey, hey hey goodbye,” as they are likely to hammer GOP members for their vote in next year’s 2018 midterms. Republicans, however, were celebratory. Some journalists reported that beer was being brought into the Capitol. Lawmakers planned to trek to the White House later in the day for a victory party.
President Trump pressed lawmakers in recent days to vote for the legislation, as he struggled to fulfill a repeated campaign promise.
But opponents blasted the bill as a threat to healthcare coverage for millions, arguing that revisions to earlier legislation actually weaken Obamacare protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
“House Republicans are going to tattoo this moral monstrosity to their foreheads and the American people are going to hold them accountable,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement issued earlier on Thursday.
Her counterpart, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, predicted passage of the bill earlier in the day, and has defended the legislation as a way to generate more choices for consumers in the health care market. He told CNN that the bill was “not taking a benefit away.”
“A lot of us have waited seven years to cast this vote,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said just before the vote. “Many of us are here because we pledged to cast this vote.”
Groups like the American Medical Association and AARP lobbied against the bill. The AARP’s political arm even labelled it an “age tax,” arguing that it would result in dramatically higher premiums for seniors.
A number of other groups seized on Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue on Monday night, when he talked about the wrenching experience of watching his newborn son go through heart surgery. Kimmel made the case for covering people with pre-existing conditions, and said that it shouldn’t be a matter of wealth as to whether parents are able to cover their children for their care.
“If your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make,” Kimmel said. “I think that’s something that whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right?”
The Obamacare replacement legislation failed to even make it to a floor vote in March, after conservatives and moderates in the Republican caucus balked. But in recent weeks, amendments were added in an effort to please the right flank, including a controversial measure that allows states to seek waivers so that insurers could charge those with pre-existing conditions more than healthy customers. That condition drew criticism from moderate members, but some eventually came to support the legislation after an agreement was struck to add $8 billion to a fund to “high risk” insurance pools for those who are sick.
The original legislation was analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office, which concluded that while it would reduce deficits by $337 billion through 2026, it also would result in a rise in the number of uninsured to 24 million people by that time. The House GOP voted without seeing a new analysis from the office of the amended legislation.