WASHINGTON – Arizona lawmakers split straight down party lines Wednesday as the House voted to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, less than two weeks after it was upheld by the Supreme Court.
Only five Democrats – none from Arizona – crossed the aisle to join 239 Republicans voting to repeal “Obamacare,” while 185 Democrats voted against repeal. The vote was mirrored in Arizona’s delegation, where the five Republican members voted for repeal and the three Democrats voted against it.
Rep. Ben Quayle, R-Phoenix, said Wednesday he was “proud” to have voted for repeal.
“Once full repeal is achieved, we can make effective, market-based reforms that will cut costs and increase access” to health care, Quayle said.
But chances for “full repeal” are dim, with the measure likely to be blocked in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
The fact that the vote was largely symbolic – it’s the 33rd time the House has tried to repeal or defund health reform – was not lost on Democrats.
“My constituents want Congress to move forward with improvements to the law, not move backward with political games,” said Rep. Ron Barber, D-Tucson, in a prepared statement Wednesday.
Barber said the health reform act isn’t perfect, but that Congress “must not throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
“The Affordable Care Act is flawed, but a major step forward in providing access to affordable and quality health care to all Americans,” his statement said.
Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, long a supporter of the health care act, criticized Republicans in debate on the House floor Tuesday.
“Instead of bringing a jobs bill up or a fair taxation bill up to the floor, we will be taking away health care,” Grijalva said of the proposed repeal. “Americans want a jobs plan, not their health care taken away.”
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who helped push Obamacare through as House Speaker in the last session of Congress, seconded Grijalva’s suggestion that the House should focus on other, more important, matters.
“The American people want us to create jobs,” Pelosi said Wednesday in a prepared statement. “That’s what we should be using this time on the floor for. Not on this useless ‘bill to nowhere.’”
But Republicans countered that they were the ones doing what is best for the American people with the repeal vote.
“The American people have said loud and clear, time and time again that they do not support Obama’s disastrous healthcare takeover and burdensome tax increase,” said Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Flagstaff.
“As a healthcare provider, I know that the results of Obamacare on our system of healthcare and on the overall strength of our nation would be devastating,” said Gosar, a dentist. “We must repeal and replace this government takeover with a patient-centered, comprehensive plan which empowers consumers – not bureaucrats.”
That theme of replacing, and not just repealing, the act was echoed by other Republicans who said Congress should begin creating new health reform measures. Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Mesa, urged Congress to “go several steps further than just repealing Obamacare.”
“Going forward, Congress must put in place a plan for healthcare that is empowered by the free market and grants Americans access to affordable care and control of their healthcare dollars,” Flake said.