WASHINGTON -- Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) used her last press conference as Speaker of the House to defend the president's health-care reform package, even as incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) advocated the law's repeal.
Although the House's prospective repeal bill would be almost certain to die in the Senate, Cantor said it was important to hold a vote on the issue soon. "The American people are expecting quick action," he told reporters on Tuesday. "They expect us to take this to the floor as quickly as possible."
Earlier in the day, Pelosi criticized her Republican counterparts for trying to repeal the new health-care law, a move which would increase the deficit, even as she congratulated them on their new positions of power.
Pelosi said that Republicans have virtually no chance of repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, arguing that to do so would do "very serious violence to the national debt and deficit," sentiments with which her Democratic colleagues vehemently agreed.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz (D-Fla.) said repeal would leave financially-strapped families unable to pay health bills, while Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) called the GOP's move to repeal Obama's signature legislation "disingenuous" and "political theater."
"It's a kabuki dance ..." said DeLauro. "Repeal of health care reform is not going to happen."
Senate Democrats vowed Monday to protect a measure designed to help millions of seniors cover the cost of prescription drugs.
Pelosi told reporters she has "no regrets" about her four-year reign and that she's looking forward to working with the incoming Republican leadership. Outgoing House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), meanwhile, sardonically congratulated Cantor on "taking the title I liked having," adding, "I understand that elections have consequences."
Cantor is slated to become majority leader on Wednesday, when Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) is due to be sworn in as the new House speaker.
GOP leadership has set a health-care repeal vote for next week. Despite repeated appeals for more legislative transparency and debate time, the repeal bill will go straight to the floor, bypassing the pertinent House committees.
This would mark a reversal from Cantor's calls for an open process. In a Dec. 8 "Dear Colleagues" letter, he proposed that legislation be publicly available for three days prior to entering committee and for three days before floor consideration.
"This has been litigated in the last election. It has certainly been discussed enough in this House," Cantor said by way of explanation for the abbreviated debate. Asked if he would allow Democrats to offer amendments to the bill, he said the bill would be "a very straightforward document."
Cantor promised more transparency in a prospective Republican health-care reform bill, to be presented after a repeal of last year's law.
The incoming majority leader declined to say, however, whether he thought a repeal could make it through the Senate or, in that event, past a certain veto from Obama.
"The Senate will have to consider its position once the House passes the repeal bill and they hear from their constituents," he said. "The Senate can serve as a cul-de-sac if that's what it wants to be, but they'll have to answer to the American people."