Carolina Journal News Reports
RALEIGH — Within hours of the June 28 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court affirming that the federal Affordable Care Act is constitutional, Republicans in Congress launched an attempt to get rid of the health care legislation. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has called for a vote July 11 in the House of Representatives to repeal the law in its entirety.
Carolina Journal surveyed the members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation to learn how each planned to vote on the repeal. Not surprisingly, all six Republicans plan to support the measure: Reps. Renee Ellmers, 2nd District, Walter Jones, 3rd District, Virginia Foxx, 5th District, Howard Coble, 6th District, Sue Myrick, 9th District, and Patrick McHenry,10th District.
The delegation’s Democrats, however, are divided: Two Democrats who expect to face strong Republican challenges in the fall election — Reps. Mike McIntyre, 7th District, and Larry Kissell, 8th District — have said they’re going to vote against their party and side with repeal. Three other Democrats from safe districts — Reps. G.K. Butterfield, 1st District, David Price, 4th District, and Mel Watt, 12th District — voted for the health care bill initially and have no intention of backing an effort to repeal it. The two Democrats who are retiring at the end of the term — Reps. Heath Shuler, 11th District, and Brad Miller, 13th District — have not stated their plans publicly, nor did either respond to repeated requests for comment.
Michael Bitzer, a politics and history professor at Catawba College, says the Republicans hope to rally their core supporters for the November election. “The base of the Republican Party is not happy with the Supreme Court decision. So I think what Majority Leader Cantor is doing is [building] the energy of the base by holding this vote.”
The House voted last year to repeal the law, and McIntyre was one of only three Democrats to support that measure. Lumina News reported last week that McIntyre has not changed his position. “The individual mandate is a tax, which I do not support,” McIntyre said. “I’ve always been against raising taxes. I do not favor putting mandates and additional burdens on our businesses and families, especially when businesses are trying to survive and create jobs for our citizens."
Kissell told The Charlotte Observer, “I voted against [the Affordable Care Act] originally and I will vote to repeal it. … Constitutional or not, the health care bill cut Medicare and placed undue burdens on our small businesses.”
Bitzer says that even if a measure completely repealing the law passed the House, it would die immediately. “It won’t get voted on in the Senate,” he said, “and if [for] some wild reason it did get voted on, the Democrats control the Senate, and the president could always veto it.”
Some observers have suggested that Congress could hold a separate vote severing the individual mandate from the law, perhaps before the election. The court’s majority opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts suggested that the law’s penalty for not purchasing health insurance could be considered a tax, and the Senate rule known as reconciliation allows a vote on revenue measures with a simple majority, not the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster.
Bitzer does not think a reconciliation vote in the Senate this summer on the penalty/tax provision of the law is likely.
Signè Thomas is an editorial intern for Carolina Journal.