Jan. 19, 2011 -- After two days of lively debate, the House of Representatives today voted to repeal the health care law, even as Democrats and Obama administration officials used the renewed debate to highlight its benefits.
Three Democrats joined all 242 House Republicans in voting for repeal.
On Thursday, the House will hold another vote calling on four committees to begin work on crafting a replacement bill that will yank some of the most contentious parts of the bill, such as the changes to Medicare Advantage and the requirement that all Americans must purchase health insurance by 2014.
In nearly two days of debate, Republicans argued against the idea that the bill would create jobs and cut costs, while Democrats touted the benefits of the new law and the negative impact on Americans were it to be repealed.
"By completing that great unfinished business of our society, now patients and their doctors are in charge of their health, not insurance companies," House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on the House floor today. The repeal is "harmful to the health of the American people, which is so damaging to our fiscal health as well."
The bill has little chance of being taken up in the Democratically-controlled Senate, but GOP lawmakers said their vote was still important.
"This is not symbolic. This is why we were sent here," Rep. Michelle Bachman, R-Minn., founder of the Tea Party caucus said on the House floor today.
The House Republican leadership instead challenged the Senate Democratic leadership to bring it up for debate.
"I think the American people deserve to see a vote in the Senate and the Senate ought not be a place that legislation goes into a dead end," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said at a press conference.
"We as Republicans believe there is a better way for providing options for health care in this country. This is a first step toward achieving that," he said.
President Obama is unlikely to sign any bill that would repeal the $1 trillion health care law.
"I'm willing and eager to work with both Democrats and Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act. But we can't go backward," the president said in a statement Tuesday. "Americans deserve the freedom and security of knowing that insurance companies can't deny, cap, or drop their coverage when they need it the most, while taking meaningful steps to curb runaway health care costs."
A majority of Americans continue to oppose the law, which will bring a myriad of changes to the U.S. health care system in the next few years.
Forty-six percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, released Tuesday, think the law is likely to cut jobs, 8 points more than those who think it will create them. Even more, 54 percent, think the law is more apt to hurt than help the economy, and 62 percent see it as increasing rather than decreasing the federal deficit.
Yet, most Americans do not want to see the law repealed. Only 37 percent of those polled favored repealing all or parts of the law. The rest either support it, or want to wait and see its effects.
Democrats used the repeal vote and the renewed debate to highlight benefits of the law, and they argue that overturning those provisions could hurt millions of Americans.
"The last thing that we should be doing today or any day is making a decision and casting a vote to put insurance companies back in the driver's seat and deny doctors and their patients the opportunity to make decisions about their own health care," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said at a press conference today. "This has been job-creating, life-affirming legislation."
House Passes Bill to Repeal Health Care Law
Democrats today lined up a bevy of administration heavyweights -- from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius -- to tout the benefits of the health reform law.
HHS released a study Tuesday that found as many as 129 million non-elderly Americans have a pre-existing health condition that puts them at risk of being denied affordable coverage.
Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers will not be able to deny coverage to any patients with pre-existing conditions, starting in 2014. The act already bars insurance companies from turning away children with pre-existing conditions.
"When we talk about changing the rules once and for all for people with pre-existing conditions, we're really impacting hundreds of millions of Americans, giving them the freedom to have the insurance coverage they need when they get sick, give them the peace of mind," Sebelius said today.
"People talk about repeal as political theater or symbolism. It isn't symbolic to the 149 million Americans with health conditions who now are locked out or priced out of the market," she added. "And it sure isn't symbolic to those working families who desperately need health security for themselves and their families, and are looking forward to the day when they indeed will have that kind of security."
Washington isn't the only battleground for the health care fight, which continues to also brew at the state level.
The number of states challenging the health care law grew to 27 Tuesday as Florida's attorney general filed a motion to add six new states --Iowa, Ohio, Kansas, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Maine -- to a multi-state challenge against the constitutionality of the law.
Oklahoma's Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt has also signaled his intent to file his own lawsuit in the coming weeks.
As states crunch their budgets, an increasing number are saying provisions required under the new law are too costly, even though the federal government has agreed to pick up the tab for many of those programs.
Republican Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia today expressed concern that the law's Medicaid mandates could cost his state $2.5 billion in the next ten years. The federal law requires that Medicaid be expanded to cover Americans whose incomes are at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level -- about $14,000 in 2010 for a person living alone.
ABC News' John Parkinson and Ariane de Vogue contributed to this report.