Are House Republicans Wasting Their Time With Obamacare Repeal Votes?



This evening, the House of Representatives will vote, once again, to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—otherwise known as Obamacare. The House has already voted more than 30 times to repeal the health law, but is going ahead with yet another vote partly in response to new GOP representatives clamoring for a chance to officially vote against the law. Today's vote is as likely to lead directly to full repeal as any of the previous votes. 

So are House Republicans just wasting their time on meaningless, go-nowhere votes new members? Maybe not.

When the House first began holding these repeal votes back in 2011, I described them as "symbolic," and on the most important level, that's still true: No repeal bill is going to pass in the Senate any time soon, and even if it did, President Obama would not agree to sign a repeal of his signature law.

Yet that doesn't mean that these votes have no effect at all. For one thing, as The Washington Post's Sarah Kliff notes today, they can help bolster public opposition to the law:

The uncertainty that these repeal votes have created can have real consequences for the Affordable Care Act. There's fairly comprehensive literature that suggests that when regulations seem like they might get repealed, people resist them aggressively. When the new restriction appears to be set in stone, however, the reaction seems to be rationalization: Trying to think through why the regulation isn't, in fact, all that bad.

And although the major components of the health law remain in place, Congress has managed to alter or kill some of its provisions:

In the course of nearly 40 repeal votes, Congress has also managed to change the Affordable Care Act in some substantive ways. It repealed a small-business tax reporting requirement that legislators in both parties derided as onerous. Congress changed the way income gets counted under the Affordable Care Act in determining who receives a tax subsidy to purchase health insurance coverage.

Congress has cut off funding to a program that was meant to fund new, nonprofit health plans in all states. It also cut into the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which pays for everything from primary care residencies to healthy corner store programs.

This sort of thing is bound to annoy the health law's supporters, but it suggests that the repeated votes to repeal the law have been effective—not, obviously, at taking the law down, but at changing the way it works, and at creating political conditions that might be more amenable to repeal at some point in the future. With the Senate and the White House controlled by Democrats, Republicans opposed to the health law are limited in the ways they can move the ball on the goal of full repeal. But they're not entirely powerless. The repeal votes are not only a symbolic way of expressing opposition to the law, they're also a way of helping to preserve the (admittedly small) possibility that they might have the power and political will to fully repeal the law at some point in the future.

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  1. Boehner’s jazz hands are kinda flat. He needs to get a new choreographer.

    1. I hear Paula Abdul is available.

      1. Does she go? Is she a goer?

        1. She likes to travel.

          1. Know what I mean, wink-wink nudge-nudge?

      2. He don’t play by rules.

        1. You know, it would be great if all of the members of the House got caught up in a fad where they all started acting like Dr. House. You know, because they’re in the House.

          1. Girl, don’t play the fool.

  2. No. Do it again and again and again and again until they have both houses. Then do it once and, if necessary, override the veto. Kill it.

    Then cut more spending.

    1. On what planet is the GOP going to get the 67 seats in the Senate needed to override a veto???

      1. Why not? It wasn’t that long ago they controlled both houses. And if blood is in the water, they might be able to get some Democrats to vote with them. Not to mention that an override may not be necessary in 2017.

        A lot depends on Scandalgate and how it plays out, of course. And Economygate.

        1. It wasn’t that long ago they controlled both houses.

          They controlled both houses and never had 67 seats in the Senate. They’d need to pick up both senators in some dark blue states in order to get to 67. It’s not happening.

          Of course, if they win the presidency in 2016, they’ll be able to kill it without the veto. As much as I hate the GOP, any president who kills Obamacare will be an all-time great in my book.

        2. Since WWII there has been exactly 2 years where a party has held 67 or more seats: 1965-66. This came after holding 66, 64, 65, and 64 seats the previous 4 congresses.

          Only a third of the Senate is up for election at any one time, so it is very difficult to have any kind of sweeping change. They would have to gain 22 seats, which means AVERAGING a net gain of 7 seats if they did it in 3 cycles, which would mean repeal maybe in 2019, overriding Democrat President Chris Christie’s veto.

          1. overriding Democrat President Chris Christie’s veto.

            I think you mean Democrat President Hillary Clinton. I’ve worked this out in my head. The Republicans aren’t going to regain the White House until George P. Bush pulls out a stunner in 2024.

            1. No way, HRC is going to be played out by then.

              Hillary fatigue will set in. She had her chance in ’08, and blew it. Had she turned down SoS she might have had a chance to challenge Obama in ’12, but she gave that option up.

        1. Biden is Palpatine?

          1. Harry Reid is Palpatine, Biden is Jar Jar.

          2. Biden is Palpatine?

            Please?!?! Jar Jar…me so need a double barreled shotgun.

      2. they could just repeal it the same way O’care was passed. Or just “deem it” repealed.

        1. I’m willing to assume it doesn’t exist right now.

  3. the citizenry should just deem it repealed. that’s how we do things now according to Pelosi.

  4. With the Senate and the White House controlled by Democrats, Republicans opposed to the health law are limited in the ways they can move the ball on the goal of full repeal.

    The House Republicans are only limited because very few of them are in favor of limited government and are willing to do what it takes to get Obamacare repealed — attach a repeal provision to every single piece of legislation, especially funding bills, leading to either repeal or shutting down huge swaths of the federal government.

    1. That gets more realistic if attempted right after everyone’s premiums jump 400% and millions of people lose health coverage.

      Opportunity’s coming. It could get repealed. Because once it kicks in all the LIVs are going to find out the naysayers weren’t wrong, it’s going to really, really, really, really, really, really suck.

  5. I’m not sure that repeal would matter. Once agencies are created, bureaucrats are hired, and regulation writing begins, it doesn’t ever go away.

    1. All the more reason to repeal something, anything. They know it’s the thin end of the wedge, and that’s why they will fight to the death for Cowboy Poetry subsidies.

  6. I’d rather have them spend all their time casting meaningless repeal votes–repeal the EPA, DOE, AUMF–than passing legislation.

    In this day and age anything they can pass is almost certainly a net loss for liberty.

    1. Yes! Spend the rest of the time debating the Constitution or what to have for lunch. Anything except more laws, regulations, spending, and “revenue”.

    2. Some call you Tim. But others call you ignorant.

  7. The libertarians in Congress should adopt the Pelosi precedent – pass it to know what’s in it. Then proceed to throw in a repeal of something or a defunding of something in every huge bill.

  8. We are so totally and truly fucked now that the PPACA has been passed. There is no turning back now, and the walls are being built as we speak.

    To monitor compliance with these rules, the IRS and HHS are now building the largest personal information database the government has ever attempted. Known as the Federal Data Services Hub, the project is taking the IRS’s own records (for income and employment status) and centralizing them with information from Social Security (identity), Homeland Security (citizenship), Justice (criminal history), HHS (enrollment in entitlement programs and certain medical claims data) and state governments (residency).

    The data hub will be used as the verification system for ObamaCare’s complex subsidy formula. All insurers, self-insured businesses and government health programs must submit reports to the IRS about the individuals they cover, which the IRS will cross-check against tax returns.

    Good luck in advance to anyone who gets caught in this system’s gears, assuming it even works. Centralizing so much personal information in one place is another invitation for the IRS wigglers in some regional office?or maybe higher up?to make political decisions about enforcement.


    It was a nice Republic, but it’s over. I have no faith whatsoever that anyone in Washington will be able to derail this monstrosity.

    1. That is fucking awful.

  9. When Obamacare hits the fan in 2014, it will be important for republicans to be in a position to say “see, we’ve been trying to kill this for years now and it’s those dems that wanted it to happen.”

  10. I kinda wish they’d resort to fisticuffs and chair-throwing, like the good old days. Boehner looks like he can take a few punches without even feeling them. I bet he’s a scotch drinker.

    1. I want to return to the days when congressmen would periodically beat each other with canes.

    2. You ever tried to put your fist through the hardened edifice of a decade’s worth of dried up spray-on tan?

      That shit is hard.

      1. All our new candidates would be UFC fighters, not community activists and lawyers. It would be a huge improvement in the quality of our politicians.

        1. At least the decisions would be tactically sound instead of just plain dumb.

  11. I’m OK with the Republicans trying to repeal Obamacare. It may work some day, but if not, it keeps them out of trouble.

    1. If they pretend to be the party of small government long enough, some of them might actually start to believe it and act accordingly.

  12. The repeal votes are not only a symbolic way of expressing opposition to the law, they’re also a way of helping to preserve the (admittedly small) possibility that they might have the power and political will to fully repeal the law at some point in the future.

    It’s a way to preserve the appearance of having the intention of fully repealing the law at some point in the future. A big chunk of the opposition to Obamacare is simply because it is Obamacare and not Bushcare. Once a Republican is President again, you are going to see some version of ‘mend it, don’t end it’. No politician is going to willingly give up that much power.

  13. Once a Republican is President again, you are going to see some version of ‘mend it, don’t end it’. No politician is going to willingly give up that much power.

    Ding, ding, ding! Tell him what he’s won Johnny!

    1. Repeal and replace!

      1. and sadly replace seems to mean keeping awful provisions like “guaranteed issue,” as opposed to opening up insurance sales across state lines and the end of employer health premium tax deductions.

        1. Our government never lets poor results get in the way of good intentions.

    2. Depends which republican. If it is Paul, maybe not.

  14. Attach the repeal to EVERY bill.

    Of course, the GOP cant get enough votes for that.

  15. What I don’t understand is why House Republicans don’t simply pass a resolution deeming that the ACA didn’t pass the House. It makes as much sense as deeming it did, and the resulting kerfuffle should tie Obamacare up for years.

  16. Funny title! Aren’t Republicans wasting their time with almost everything they touch these days?

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