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Health Care Law Stuck in Limbo

While Parties Wait For High Court Ruling, Republicans Vote To Repeal CLASS Act

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo
While Republicans such as Rep. John Shimkus are eager to tear down the law, Members are also concerned that picking away at it might lead to unintended consequences in court.

House Republicans on Wednesday took a symbolic swipe at President Barack Obama’s health care reform law when they voted to repeal its long-term care provisions, the CLASS Act, which the administration abandoned last year as unworkable. But conservative critics of the law shouldn’t hold their breath in anticipation of further votes between now and when the Supreme Court begins hearing oral arguments on the law next month.

It was only the latest GOP swipe at the law. Republicans voted almost immediately after taking back the majority last year to repeal the landmark law. Although repeal efforts and their attendant votes remain popular with conservatives, they are less so with average voters, and Republicans are instead waiting for the high court to begin proceedings next month. A decision is expected by June.

“We voted to repeal the whole thing. What else can we do?” said Rep. John Shimkus, a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which shares jurisdiction over health care issues.

As for the Republican Conference putting forward a replacement blueprint, the Illinois Republican said, “Why spend a lot of time, effort and energy on trying to figure that out when we really don’t have any idea” what the Supreme Court will decide.

Shimkus’ remarks illustrate the GOP’s conundrum. While Republicans are eager to tear down the law, Members are also concerned that picking away at it might lead to unintended consequences in court.

“The alternatives and timing are dependent on the court’s ruling. The committee’s goal is to use the next few months exploring the various options,” an Energy and Commerce spokesman said.

House committees share jurisdiction over health care issues. And just as Democratic chairmen fought over how to divide the workload when drafting their health care legislation in 2009, Republicans could see their chairmen squabble over control of bills that would replace the law.

For now, Members say they are focused on making an economic case against the law, arguing it increases costs and hurts small businesses. On Wednesday, GOP Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas) called it the “single biggest impediment to job growth.”

Senate Republicans also called for their chamber to take up the CLASS Act repeal Wednesday, with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell noting that the Obama administration deemed the program financially insolvent last year when it stated it would no longer implement the long-term care program.

“As the House is showing today, if the president refuses to act on this most important issue, Congress will,” the Kentucky Republican said.

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