The Obama administration also stepped up in opposition to the repeal effort. The White House launched a blog series called "Voices of Health Reform," which shares a story a day about Americans positively affected by the healthcare bill, and also posted a video explaining the costs of repeal. In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services, led by Kathleen Sebelius, released a report last Tuesday saying that as many as 129 million Americans under the age of 65 could be denied health coverage due to pre-existing medical conditions if the law is overturned. The timely statistic proved useful for Democratic lawmakers, as many reiterated the new findings on the House floor.
Democrats also bashed Republicans for accepting government-subsidized health insurance while advocating for repeal of the law giving others similar help. Before the final vote yesterday, Democratic Rep. Robert Andrews from New Jersey proposed that if the law is repealed, all members who voted for repeal would have to forgo their own congressional health insurance. His proposal was voted down. [See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]
During the House floor debates, which lasted seven hours over two days, Republicans and Democrats mostly sparred over whether repealing the bill would help or hurt the nation's economy. Democrats touted numbers released from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which estimated that passing the healthcare repeal legislation could add $230 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years, and up to $1.2 trillion in the decade after that. Republicans argued the opposite. On the floor, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, displayed a chart debunking the CBO numbers, arguing instead that the healthcare law, if it remains in place, could add more than $700 billion to the deficit.
According to Sabato, last week's vote will change little, and what happens in coming months, when Republicans try to defund various provisions of the healthcare law, will have a greater effect. "It's just classic blue smoke and mirrors," says Sabato about the repeal vote. "Republicans are doing this for their base. Democrats are making sure it doesn't happen for their base, in the Senate at least. What's significant is what happens later in the appropriations process, what little provisions are included that will squeeze the current [law]."