Last year, House Republicans promised that one of their first acts would be to vote on a repeal of the new health care law. Yesterday they introduced a bill that would do just that. You can read the text of the two-page proposal here, but you hardly need to. It isn’t very subtle, and the title does most of the work: House Republicans have dubbed it the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act,” which tells you just about everything you need to know about its function and how Republicans want voters to understand it.
The proposal and the vote are, of course, almost entirely symbolic. Regardless of what happens in the House, it’s highly implausible that the Senate would vote to repeal the law. And even in the unlikely circumstance that the Senate did vote for repeal, any such measure would still face a presidential veto. As with the GOP’s planned reading of the Constitution, it’s a form of political fan service, with the GOP starting its comeback set by happily playing crowd-favorites in order to signal that it knows what its supporters care about, and to energize them for the health care battle ahead.
Those supporters will likely need all the energy they can get. If Republicans are actually interested in altering the law, they will have to find narrow ways to hack it apart bit by painstaking bit. And that process won’t be easy. The House GOP has introduced a separate resolution calling for reform ideas to change or replace parts of the PPACA. To some extent, the resolution is yet another way to delay talking about reform specifics, which many GOP legislators have been loath to delve into. But it also serves as a tacit recognition that small tweaks are the most likely path to any sort of substantive reform in the near term.
Smaller reforms will still face Democratic opposition; indeed, Democrats have already packed their picnic basket full of predictable talking points responding to the GOP’s repeal efforts. But as the push to kill the 1099-reporting provision shows, it is possible to build bipartisan support for trimming certain parts of the bill. Of course, that push also shows how difficult it will be to make those changes even with broad support. Even though the White House and members of Democratic leadership agree with Republicans that the provision should go, Congress has yet to come to an agreement about whether or how to replace the revenue raised by the provision—and, as a result, has yet to repeal it.