The House of Representatives voted 235 to 189 to approve a massive spending bill that includes several amendments to defund last year's health reform law.
The vote occurred at 4:40 a.m. Saturday after four days of debate and just before a weeklong Presidents Day congressional recess. No Democrat supported the bill, while three Republicans—Reps. John Campbell (Calif.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Walter Jones (N.C.) also voted against it. Republicans kept their pledge to slash government spending, and also used the bill as another vehicle to prevent further implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Members considered hundreds of amendments, and approved some that would take away funding for provisions of the law, including one to defund salaries for federal workers with respect to the law and another to bar funding for the individual mandate.
“Defunding the law would result in higher taxes for many small businesses, the loss of important new consumer protections against unreasonable premium increases and insurance company discrimination, and would force seniors to pay more for prescription drugs and preventive care,” House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) said in a statement. “This would be a significant step backward and take us back to the days when insurance companies were in charge of Americans' healthcare choices.”
Meanwhile, the so-called continuing resolution also includes funding cuts for other healthcare programs in this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. This debate happened during the same week the Obama administration released its budget for fiscal 2012, which Republicans have criticized for not addressing entitlement reform, including the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Overall, the bill cuts more than $60 billion in government spending compared with fiscal 2010 levels, and about $100 billion from the fiscal 2011 request from President Barack Obama that was not enacted. Earlier this week, Obama said he would veto the House bill if it “undermines critical priorities,” and the Senate and House must still agree on legislation before the current funding mechanism to fund the government ends on March 4. Without such agreement, the government would “shut down,” meaning government offices and agencies would be shuttered. Late Friday, House Minority Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Hoyer and other Democratic leaders introduced a short-term extension of the current continuing resolution until March 31 to prevent any interruption in government services.