A day after the House voted to repeal Obamacare, the White House and Republican lawmakers clashed sharply over just how many votes have been held to repeal the controversial healthcare measure since Republicans took control of the House in 2010.
The vote in the House Tuesday was 239-to-186, with no Democrats supporting the repeal proposal and three Republicans opposing it.
"They’re up to 56 right now," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told Newsmax Tuesday. "I can’t account for every one of them. There are 56 of them, so it’s hard to account for every one of them — efforts to undermine or repeal the Affordable Care Act."
But House Republicans who spoke to us say that this figure isn’t accurate and that there have actually been only four up-or-down votes for an outright repeal. If one includes the four votes on budgets that included funding for Obamacare, they said, the number of actual votes rises to eight.
The use of the "56" figure by the White House, they insisted, includes votes for things the president himself has signed into law, such as repealing the ponderous 1099 tax reporting requirements imposed on small businesses.
"It’s misleading," Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, told Newsmax in response to Earnest’s claim of 56 repeal votes. "They count things such as correcting a Medicaid formula error and repealing the CLASS Act."
CLASS, or the Community Living Assistance Services and Support Act, was officially Title VII of the Affordable Care Act and allowed taxpayers to pay premiums in exchange for the cash later in life. On Oct. 14, 2011, then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius wrote that a 19-month study concluded CLASS was "fiscally unviable."
Brady believes that the repeated use of the larger number of repeal votes by the White House is calculated "to make Republicans seem obsessed with repeal and nothing else. And it’s wrong."
In replying to Newsmax’s question about what the White House believed was the actual number of votes, Earnest quoted the three Republican House members who voted against repeal on Tuesday.
"Congressman Robert Dold [R-Illinois] indicated 'casting another symbolic vote for full repeal of the law without any replacement legislation simply distracts us from the work that must be done,'" said Earnest.
"We see congressmen take these symbolic votes which, as Congressman Dold said, that don’t actually do anything other than distract us from the work that must be done, and I think it is an indication that Republicans are not really serious about healthcare reform, that they continue to use this as a political tool."
Pressed as to where the number of "56" repeal votes originated, Earnest told us: "I’m just relying on the widespread public reporting."
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Washington) had another point of view.
Asked by Newsmax how many times she felt the House voted for repeal of Obamacare, the three-term Republican replied: "Not often enough. And there won’t be enough votes until Obamacare is finally repealed."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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