Nevada representatives reaffirm election year stances on health law

WASHINGTON – Wednesday’s vote to repeal the new health care overhaul enabled Nevada’s U.S. House members to reaffirm their positions on the controversial law in advance of their fall campaigns.

There were no surprises. Reps. Joe Heck and Mark Amodei, Republican critics of the law, favored repeal while Democrat Rep. Shelley Berkley opposed repeal.

The 244-185 vote in the GOP-controlled House to scrap the law served to re-establish battle lines in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling last month that the landmark law was constitutional.

Wednesday’s vote served little practical purpose in the short run. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., plans to block any votes on it in his chamber, saying Congress "can’t afford to waste time refighting old battles."

Rather, the five-hour House debate this week allowed members of both parties to polish their arguments for segments of voters who will cast ballots in November based for or against health care reform.

"The value of this vote is that it shows the Republican House continues to oppose this government intrusion in the health care system," Heck said. "We have to continue with that message.

"It draws a distinction between where the respective sides are on this issue," Heck said.

"Obamacare fails to accomplish real reform," Amodei said, referring to the law by its nickname. "This is not the answer to our health care crisis."

Republicans say the law’s goals to provide health coverage to 30 million uninsured Americans would come at the expense of higher premiums, taxes and fees on businesses, cuts to Medicare and costs to states. Additionally, they say, penalties on people who don’t buy insurance by 2014 amounts to a major tax, as it was declared by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Democrats contend broadening the pool of insured people will bring down health care costs. They say repealing the law would scrap a suite of consumer-friendly provisions already in effect, such as reducing prescription drug costs for seniors and allowing adult children up to 26 to remain covered on their parents’ policies.

Berkley, who is running for U.S. Senate, echoed Reid in declaring it time for Congress to move on. "Following the Supreme Court decision, both parties should come together to try and make this law work for the people of Nevada, not continue with pointless partisan games," Berkley said in a statement.

Nonetheless, the House vote teed up political attacks from both sides. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., moved to tie Berkley tighter to the health care law that is unpopular with many Nevadans.

"Middle-class Nevadans just can’t afford Shelley Berkley and her lockstep support for President Obama and Nancy Pelosi," Heller’s campaign spokeswoman Chandler Smith said. Rep. Pelosi is the Democrats’ leader in the House.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party arm that supports House races set its sights on Heck, who also is engaged in an expected close re-election race, with Assembly Speaker John Oceguera.

Democratic spokesman Jesse Ferguson said Heck was abandoning "critical patient protections for the middle class."

As House Republicans have targeted the health care law for repeal, they also promised to replace it with what they say will be less-intrusive alternatives.

Heck, an emergency room physician who is studying various plans as part of a GOP doctors caucus, indicated Wednesday that the party feels no rush to come up with replacements as long as full health care repeal remains out of reach in the Senate.

"The fact is, until the repeal action goes through, there is no urgency for the replace," Heck said. "Our approach is going to take this in small bite-sized chunks, not a 2,700-page goliath that contains everything and the kitchen sink. You can’t do this in a rushed manner."

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.

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