WASHINGTON — House Republicans prepared to cast their 62nd vote Wednesday repealing President Barack Obama's health care law, with a difference: It's the first time their bill will end up on the president's desk.
Republicans boasted of a signal achievement, saying they were forcing Obama to face up to the failures of his law while illustrating stark political choices in an election year.
"We are confronting the president with the hard, honest truth," said Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. "Obamacare doesn't work."
Democrats called it pointless political theater and pandering that will have the same ultimate outcome as all the previous repeal votes, since Obama will veto the legislation.
"A bill that is going to the White House that will get the fastest veto we've ever seen happen in this country is a monumental vote?" said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. "This is just a waste of everyone's time."
Unlike past efforts that were blocked by Senate Democrats, this time the legislation was written under special rules protecting it from a Democratic filibuster. It passed the Senate late last year, and so Wednesday's House vote will send it straight to Obama.
Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton has decried the legislation while leading GOP candidates applaud it. Ryan and other GOP leaders acknowledged it will take a Republican president to get rid of the law. But they said that is the point.
"It is our opportunity as Republicans to lay out the choice for the American people," said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington.
For maximum visibility Republican leaders made the legislation, which also cuts federal funding for Planned Parenthood, their first major vote of 2016. Although they don't command sufficient votes to override a presidential veto, they hope to schedule the override vote to coincide with the Jan. 22 March for Life in Washington that commemorates the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
Yet Ryan hedged when asked whether the House will ever vote on a replacement to Obamacare. Ryan has pledged that the House will come up with its own plan this year, something the GOP has repeatedly promised but failed to do in the nearly six years since the law's enactment. But he said details such as whether this plan will actually come to a vote have not been determined.
"Nothing's been decided yet," Ryan said.
The bill would dismantle the health law's key pillars, including requirements that most people obtain coverage and larger employers offer it to workers.
It would eliminate the expansion of Medicaid coverage to additional lower-income people and the government's subsidies for many who buy policies on newly created insurance marketplaces. And it would end taxes the law imposed to cover its costs.
The bill would also terminate the roughly $450 million yearly in federal dollars that go to Planned Parenthood, about a third of its budget. A perennial target of conservatives, the group came under intensified GOP pressure last year over providing fetal tissue for research.
Planned Parenthood officials and Democratic lawmakers accused Republicans of attacking women's health. Republicans, in turn, took to the House floor to critique Planned Parenthood in graphic terms, accusing the group of killing babies.