Rob Portman: GOP-Run Senate Would Vote On Obamacare Repeal

Senator Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, speaks during an interview in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, July 10, 2014
Senator Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, speaks during an interview in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, July 10, 2014. Portman, who may run for president in 2016, said Hillary Clinton's potential Democratic campaign for the White House won't intimidate others from seeking the office. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- Though the law will be a year older, Republicans will push a vote to repeal Obamacare if they take back the Senate in November, a top GOP senator told reporters Thursday morning.

“I suspect we will vote to repeal early to put on record the fact that we Republicans think it was a bad policy and we think it is hurting our constituents,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), appearing at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “We think health care costs should be going down, not up. We think people should be able to keep the insurance that they had. They are worried about the fact that the next shoe to drop is going to be employer coverage.”

As Portman’s remarks indicated, a repeal vote by a Republican-controlled Senate would be a largely perfunctory exercise, designed to register GOP opposition with the health care law once again. The president would never sign such a measure, even if he were severely chastened by the 2014 election results. Even top conservative donors concede as much.

What's more, the dynamics would be complicated by the fact that the next Congress convenes during the Affordable Care Act's second open-enrollment period, meaning a repeal vote would be taking place at the same time that people were signing up for coverage under the law.

Portman said that Senate Republicans should present an alternative health care proposal to couple with the repeal effort.

"I think we should,” he said. "I think it is something that ought to go along with repeal to say, 'Yes, we think this is the wrong way to go. But we also think the health care system must be improved.'"

The idea that the GOP will come up with an alternative to Obamacare is enough to make many health care reform advocates roll their eyes. House Republicans have been promising an alternative health care bill for years to go along with their numerous repeal votes. No such bill has materialized.

Absent an agreement to uproot the existing health care law, Portman argued that a GOP-controlled Senate and House could end up reaching agreement with the president on more piecemeal reforms. Those include repealing the law’s medical device tax, a proposal that has wide bipartisan support, and pursuing tort reform, which is less likely to happen.

"I'm hopeful that we can find some common ground on some issues," said Portman. “Yes, we are for repeal. Yes, we’re for replacing it all. But there are also some specific things where I think the Senate and the House could act and the president would actually sign legislation."



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