WASHINGTON — On the eve of Wednesday's scheduled vote to repeal the health care overhaul, the third-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives castigated Republicans for moving to overturn the signature legislative achievement of President Barack Obama.
Rep. Jim Clyburn and South Carolina's new Republican lawmakers squared off Tuesday over the GOP-led House bid to repeal the historic bill Clyburn helped guide to passage last year.
"The cost of repealing these new benefits is extremely high," Clyburn said. "It will increase health costs for millions of Americans, cause many families to lose coverage and increase the national debt by over $1 trillion. We can't afford to repeal this law morally or financially."
Rep. Tim Scott, chosen for a House leadership post to represent the 87 GOP freshman, said the Republicans are pushing less costly legislation to replace the measure Congress passed last March almost entirely along party lines.
"What we are now trying to do is implement the very things that should have been done last year," Scott told McClatchy.
"These include allowing citizens to purchase insurance state lines, which increases competition and lowers costs; expanding Health Savings Accounts; enacting medical tort reform that will end junk lawsuits and decrease defensive medicine that costs us billions," Scott said.
Scott noted that Republicans back one key provision from the mainly Democratic-passed bill of last year: Ensuring insurance access for people with pre-existing conditions.
"These are market-based and patient-centered improvements that are vastly better than what was done last year," he said of Republican ideas.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney, who felled former House Budget Committee chairman John Spratt in November, said in his second floor speech that the health-insurance law discourages firms from growing because larger companies face tougher mandates.
"It's almost as if the folks who wrote this piece of legislation last year either have no idea how small business works or they don't care how small business works," he said. "Either way, the current healthcare legislation is a complete disaster for small business."
Clyburn countered with figures from the Department of Health and Human Services that he said indicate the harmful impact repealing the health care law would have on residents and small businesses in his district.
"It took nearly 100 years to end discrimination against children and others who are sick or who have reached lifetime caps imposed by insurance companies," Clyburn said. "Ending this law will mean the end of billions of dollars in tax credits to small businesses who are able to afford to provide healthcare coverage to their employees, many for the first time."
Rep. Trey Gowdy, who defeated incumbent Rep. Bob Inglis in the GOP primary in June, said the new law represents everything he was elected to fight.
"The health care bill represents all that is wrong with Washington — an overextension of Congress' constitutional authority, an utter lack of transparency and a litany of regulations and taxes hindering our country's ability to create jobs," Gowdy said.