By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Calling it an effort to take away Americans’ healthcare, the U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to condemn the Trump administration’s courtroom bid to eliminate Obamacare.
The 240-186 vote was a largely symbolic move aimed at keeping the spotlight on the issue. Just eight Republicans joined majority Democrats in voting to urge the administration to reverse its assault against Obamacare, as the 2010 Affordable Care Act that overhauled the U.S. healthcare system is popularly known.
House Democrats brought the resolution to force lawmakers to take a stand on the Justice Department’s recent move asking an appeals court to overturn Obamacare on constitutional grounds.
President Donald Trump, a Republican, has pledged to deliver a better healthcare system than Obamacare if the Supreme Court tosses out his predecessor’s signature domestic achievement.
“The American people deserve to know exactly where their representatives stand on the Trump administration’s vicious campaign to take away their healthcare,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said.
But Republicans called the resolution a “political stunt”. Representative Kevin Brady said that if the Supreme Court did strike down Obamacare, Republicans would act to protect some provisions, including coverage guarantees for people with pre-existing medical conditions. Trump says his administration is drawing up a new healthcare plan ahead of the 2020 election that could be implemented soon afterwards, assuming he wins re-election and Republicans win back the House and keep the Senate.
But Democrats say some 20 million people could lose insurance if the courts toss out Obamacare. They have happily seized on the issue again after having won control of the House last November while campaigning heavily on strengthening Obamacare.
“The president’s view will make 2020 all about healthcare,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said. “I would suggest that’s good for us (Democrats). The American people are for having access to care.”
Some Republicans who voted with Democrats Wednesday were from “swing” districts, and may worry that opposing Obamacare could be a liability when they face the voters again next year. The one Democrat who voted against the resolution, Representative Collin Peterson, hails from a Minnesota district that voted strongly for Trump in 2016.
Trump accuses Democrats of seeking “a socialist takeover of American healthcare,” and is certain to take that argument onto the 2020 campaign trail. “This (healthcare) will be a great campaign issue,” he tweeted Wednesday ahead of the House vote.
Trump vowed in the 2016 presidential election to end Obamacare but failed to do so during his first two years in power, despite Republicans controlling both House and Senate.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish)