House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va., center, meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday.AP photo
WASHINGTON — The House Republican drive to dismantle the new health care law piece by piece advanced Tuesday with a vote to disrupt the flow of federal dollars for health insurance exchanges, an integral part of the law’s goal of expanding insurance coverage.
The bill is mainly a vehicle for Republicans to restate their case against the health care law enacted last year, since the Democratic-led Senate is likely to ignore it and the White House issued a veto threat in the event it passed.
The House is also expected to vote today on another bill to block funding for a part of the law that offers grants for school-based health center construction.
The vote on the insurance exchange bill split mainly along party lines, 238-183.
Both bills would take away the authority of the secretary of the Health and Human Services, as prescribed in the health care law, to distribute money for the two programs without going through the annual congressional budget process.
"Shockingly, the Congress gave an executive branch official the sole authority to determine the size of the appropriation," said Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and sponsor of the health exchange bill. "Without further congressional action, the secretary can literally spend hundreds of billions of dollars" at her own discretion.
The exchanges, said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Senate committee that oversees health issues, gives states "new authority and flexibility to serve their citizens’ needs. This legislation would roll back those gains and hurt American families. As I’ve said before, bills to defund the health care law will be dead on arrival in the Senate."