WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican-led House voted overwhelmingly Friday to bolt new security requirements onto the new federal health care law, with 67 Democrats breaking ranks to join with the GOP.
It was the first skirmish of what is certain to be a long and contentious election-year fight.
The vote was 291-122. Republicans are relentlessly focusing on the Affordable Care Act, convinced that Americans' unease with the troubled law will translate into significant election gains in November.
Dozens of Democrats, nervous about their re-election chances or their campaigns for other offices, voted for the GOP bill.
“Americans have the right to know if the president's health care law has put their personal information at risk, and today's bipartisan vote reflects that concern,” said Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Among the Democrats joining the Republicans was Rep. Steve Israel of New York, the chairman of his party's campaign committee dedicated to electing Democrats.
“I voted for this bill because I want to make sure confidential information is protected. That's just common sense,” Israel said in a statement. “This is an added consumer safeguard on top of the many consumer protections in the law that already exist.”
The Nebraska and Iowa delegations voted for the bill, including Iowa Democrats Bruce Braley, a Senate candidate, and Dave Loebsack.
The bill would require the secretary of health and human services to notify an individual within two business days of any security breach involving personal data provided to the government through the online health care insurance marketplace, Healthcare.gov.
The administration opposed the measure as an unnecessary and costly burden, insisting that the government already has imposed stringent standards and Americans will be notified if personal data has been compromised. Several Democrats said the measure was a GOP message bill designed to scare people away from enrolling in coverage.
The bill stands no chance for final approval in the Democratic-led Senate.
Republicans said their legislation addressed potential security breaches, though they offered no specific examples of compromised information to this point.
Instead, they pointed to the recent security breach at Target Corp. The nation's second-largest retailer said Friday that personal information connected to about 70 million customers through credit and debit card accounts had been stolen in a pre-Christmas data breach.
“What if Target had not bothered to tell anyone?” asked Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., who argued that the Health and Human Services Department's promise to notify Americans of security breaches needed the force of law.
But Democrats noted there have been no breaches at the health care website. The bill was simply a Republican effort to “put fear into the public,” according to Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J.
Rep. Diane DeGette, D-Colo., described the legislation as a “solution in search of a problem.”
Republicans used debate on the bill to assail the health care law more broadly.
Next up as a political test is a House bill from Nebraska's GOP Rep. Lee Terry that would require the administration to report weekly on the number of visits to the government health care website, the number of Americans who applied and the number of enrollees by ZIP code, as well as other statistics.
The administration has opposed this measure, saying it has been providing information on enrollments, and the added requirements would force it to hire new staff.
The House will debate that measure next week.
Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.