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House Takes First Step to Repeal Obamacare

Republicans moved one step closer to repealing Obamacare after the House passed a measure this afternoon directing committees to begin working on legislation to repeal major pieces of the law.

The resolution cleared the House 227-198. Ten members didn't vote. Similar legislation passed in the Senate Thursday morning largely along party lines.

A group of nine moderate and conservative House Republicans voted against the bill with concerns that Republicans would end up repealing the law without clearly laying out and presenting their replacement.

"The only thing I've ever asked for is that the replacement plan be fully developed before we take on the repeal issue," Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pennsylvania, a leading moderate who voted against the measure, said in an interview.

"I want to make [sure] people who have pre-existing conditions don't get frozen out of the market," Tom MacArthur, R-New Jersey, said after voting against the resolution. "I am getting a lot of calls. People are concerned about fixing health care. They are much more concerned about the substance of the fix than the timing of the fix."

Republican leaders expect to enact a repeal as early as next month; House Speaker Paul Ryan said it would "definitely" come in the first 100 days.

Democrats criticized the vote and accused the GOP of playing politics.

"It's being done for political reasons," said Rep. John Delaney, D-Maryland, on the House floor.

Next Steps

Ryan has emphasized that the House would move any legislation repealing the law through the committee process.

"We are not going to swap one 2700-page monstrosity for another ... we are going to do this the right way. We are going to do this the way it was designed through the congressional committee system," he said during his press conference earlier today.

Democrats say they will counter Republicans' efforts by bringing Americans whose lives have been positively affected by the law to these hearings. Several members are holding rallies in their districts this weekend to tout the law's benefits.

Democrats will also make the argument that that Republicans cannot realistically "repeal" parts of the law without excluding popular provisions like protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

"Here is the problem that they have," Congresswomen Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, said during a press conference today with Democratic House members. "All of the parts are like a puzzle that was carefully crafted and put together and you take a piece out and it no longer works. And that is what they are coming to realize. They have had six years to come up with something and they have come up with exactly nothing."

Ryan and his office remain unwilling to talk policy details. According to Ryan, proposals and legislative strategy will be discussed at the retreat for Republican lawmakers later this month. But Republican leadership acknowledges that the longer it waits to offer a replacement, the more scrutiny it will face from Americans and lawmakers alike.

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