Though the House has repealed health-care reform, it won't be repealed by the Senate, meaning the effort is virtually dead. But House Republicans can still try to dismantle the law by other means.
The struggle over the future of health-care reform is just beginning.
After what Speaker John Boehner dubbed "a spirited but respectful debate," the House voted 245 to 189 Wednesday to repeal President Obama's signature domestic achievement - health-care reform.
But with Senate Democrats opposed to allowing a floor vote on the bill - and a president sure to veto it - the near party-line vote is the likely high-water mark for repeal in this Congress.
Wednesday's vote kicked off an offensive on both sides of the aisle - and within parties - on what House majority leader Eric Cantor of Virginia called "a better way forward."
For House GOP leaders, the next phase will include the intense oversight of all aspects of the vast reform legislation while simultaneously attempting to dismantle it, brick by brick.
Tea party activists, led in the House by Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R) of Minnesota, pledge to carry the fight for outright appeal into the 2012 elections. "We will not stop until we put a president in the White House who will repeal this," she said.
For Democrats, it's a chance to defend their legacy, including within their own ranks. In the 2010 elections, moderate Democrats took a pounding on health-care reform, but Wednesday most rallied with their own leadership to oppose repeal of a reform they once opposed. Three voted for repeal: Reps. Dan Boren of Oklahoma, Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, and Mike Ross of Arkansas.
Instructions to committees
The next order of business is a vote to empower committees to propose measures to replace the health-care law. On Thursday House Republicans take to the floor a bill that instructs four committees - Education and the Workforce, Energy and Commerce, Judiciary, and Ways and Means - to propose changes to existing law that cut costs, end regulations that hurt job creation, and maximize patient access and choice.
"This majority is dedicated to growth for the American people. Repealing last year's health-care law is a critical step," majority leader Cantor said in closing remarks on the floor Wednesday. The next step, replace the law, begins "an honest debate about a better way forward," he added.
But Democrats are saying this "repeal and replace" agenda is a chance to more effectively explain and defend existing reform in committee hearings, on the floor of the House, or on the stump in the run-up to 2012 elections.
"It gives Democrats a further chance to talk to the American people," said Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee. "We are on the offensive on this issue. We are going everywhere. We are an American truth squad."
The new Republican majority in the House aims to set committees to work investigating 12 issues to include in new health-care reform legislation, many focused on lowering the costs of health care.
These include: cutting regulations that discourage job creation, lowering health-care premiums through competition, …