WASHINGTON — House Republicans generally avoided talk of replacement measures Tuesday as they mobilized for an election-season vote to repeal the health care law that stands as President Barack Obama’s signature domestic accomplishment.
Instead, they lambasted the 2-year-old law as a threat to economic recovery and predicted that some Democrats would join them in repudiating it.
“This is nothing short of economic malpractice,” said Rep. Nan Hayworth, R-N.Y., citing tax increases, government mandates and other items in the law. “We can and we must do better.”
She did not elaborate, nor did any of the members of the leadership in remarks after the meeting.
Republican officials said the general reluctance to sketch any sort of alternative resulted from a desire to focus public attention on the health care law itself. It generally fares poorly in public polling, nationally and in surveys of independent voters.
In addition, they said that while many Republicans ran on a slogan of “repeal and replace” in 2010, the rank and file is far from united around any precise alternative.
Republicans in both houses have suggested numerous measures in recent years to remake parts of the sprawling health care system. The last time the party offered a full-fledged legislative alternative was in 2009, meaning that none of the dozens of first-termers elected in 2010 were involved in its drafting.
That measure called for capping medical malpractice judgments, allowing insurance companies to sell policies across state lines and permitting small businesses to pool together to purchase coverage for their employees.
It also would have provided funds to the states to help maintain high-risk insurance pools for people with pre-existing conditions, for whom insurance is otherwise either unavailable or prohibitively expensive.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the GOP alternative of three years ago would have contributed to a reduction in premiums, particularly for individual policies and those covering small groups.
At the same time, the Congressional Budget Office, an impartial arbiter, estimated that it would have left the percentage of legal residents without coverage unchanged at the end of a decade, a sharp contrast to the reductions envisioned in the Democratic legislation then taking shape.
Nor would it have required insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions or make other changes included in the law that passed.
In the run-up to Wednesday’s vote, Democrats sought political advantage in the lack of a Republican alternative.
“What the Republicans are really doing this week is to try to repeal health care reform and protections against insurance company abuses,” said Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan.