House Votes to Repeal CLASS Act

The House of Representatives voted today to repeal a lifeless provision of the president's health care reform law, known as the CLASS Act.

By a vote of 267-159, lawmakers passed H.R. 1173, Fiscal Responsibility and Retirement Security Act of 2011. Twenty-eight Democrats joined a unanimous Republican Conference in supporting the repeal.

Even though the Obama administration last fall declared the law dead in the water because the program is not fiscally sustainable, the Democratic-controlled Senate is unlikely to follow the House's lead to repeal the provision.

So why did the House repeal it? House Republicans voted to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act last year, but Democrats stood behind the president in defense of their landmark bill. Now, Republicans are trying to take it apart, piece by piece.

"The president's health care law is making it harder for small businesses to hire new workers and provide insurance for their employees, and Republicans are committed to repealing and defunding it - piece by piece if necessary," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement after the vote. "The Democrats running Washington used the CLASS Act to mask the true cost of their government takeover of health care, but even the administration now admits CLASS is 'unsustainable.' The entire health care law - with its maze of red tape, mandates, and tax hikes - is unsustainable.

Boehner called on the Senate to "follow the House's lead, scrap the law, and work with us to enact reforms that will actually lower health care costs without hurting small businesses and jeopardizing coverage for families."

The CLASS Act, a pet project of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, is a voluntary program where taxpayers could volunteer to pay premiums for long-term care that would allow the taxpayer to get that cash later in life.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote a letter to Congress Oct. 14 explaining that a 19-month "comprehensive analysis" of the CLASS program indicated that it was not viable.

The measure, formally known as the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act, came with a five-year waiting period before it started to pay out benefits, but it started collecting revenues immediately. Republicans argued that the act was just another example of how the administration hid the cost of the Affordable Care Act.

"The president's health care law was built with smoke and mirrors in order to hide its true cost from the American people," said Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee.  "The CLASS Act is just one prime example of the budget gimmicks Democrats employed to force their bill through Congress."

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, one of the most outspoken critics of the health care law in Congress, said that the vote is "proof that everyone who voted for ObamaCare voted for socialized medicine."

"This program is a confirmed failure, but Democrats continue to focus on holding on to this legislative trophy rather than on the future of America," King said in a statement following the vote. "Those who voted for ObamaCare, and those who voted against repealing the CLASS Act, have made it clear that they do not care if their government experiments work, as long as they pave the way for socialized medicine."