Washington Digest

STEVE TETREAULTStephens Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — House Republicans took another whack last week at the 2010 health care overhaul, voting to repeal the law that is transforming the landscape for health insurance.

Lawmakers voted 229-195 along party lines to repeal “Obamacare” in its entirety, marking the 37th time the GOP-controlled House has voted to get rid of all or part of the law.

The measure stands no chance of passing the Democrat-controlled Senate. But the vote got new lawmakers on the record and allowed both parties to deliver messages opposing or defending the landmark law.

When fully implemented, the law will require most Americans to buy health insurance at their workplaces, from private companies or government-run marketplaces where low-income individuals could qualify for subsidies. In so doing, it aims to extend insurance coverage to 30 million people now uninsured.

Republicans argued the law, which is in the midst of being implemented, will increase health insurance premiums for families and businesses, prove onerous to employers and expand the role of “big government” in health care.

“We need to repeal this job-crushing, premium-rising, government-expanding law,” said Rep. Michael Bilirakis, R-Fla.

Democrats said the law already has provided benefits to millions by expanding health coverage to young adults, prohibiting insurers from dropping sick customers and reducing prescription drug costs.

“The clock will not be turned back,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md. “ObamaCare is the law of the land.”

Reps. Markwayne Mullin, R-Westville, Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, Tom Cole, R-Moore, James Lankford, R-Edmond and Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, voted to repeal the health care law.

Water bill passes

The Senate voted 83-14 for a bill that authorizes flood control and navigation projects on the inland waterways.

Among other things, the bill aims to speed environmental permits for water projects, setting penalties for federal agencies that do not issue decisions on applications within designated periods.

It also establishes a loan program to help local districts build or upgrade water pipelines and treatment plans.

Critics said the bill would increase federal responsibilities on water projects without adequate input from states, and that it came up short of assurances that projects stay on budget.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., voted for the bill, while Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., voted against it.