Every time the subject comes up, which is often, I’m reminded that there’s a debate over exactly how many times congressional Republicans have tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act, in whole or in part. By my count it’s 39 times, but I’ve seen other credible counts that put the total a little higher or a little lower.
Frankly, the exact number isn’t terribly important. What matters more is that the total is poised to go up by one.
In a nod to the right, House Republican leaders will once again seek to repeal President Obama’s healthcare law next week.
The decision, announced Wednesday by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), represents a shift by top Republicans in the lower chamber.
It does, indeed. Earlier this year, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) suggested his party’s crusade to destroy the Affordable Care Act had run its course, and it was time to move on. Noting the 2012 election results, Boehner declared, “Obamacare is the law of the land.”
But in recent months, the far-right caucus came to believe that the freshmen class hasn’t had the same opportunities, so they too should have the chance to vote on a stand-alone bill to kill the reform law. It’s as if this were some kind of rite of passage: “Congratulations, congressman, on your recent election. Here is your pin, here is your office, and here is your opportunity to deny millions of Americans affordable access to quality health care.”
Keep in mind, Republicans know their bill can’t become law, but they want to go through the motions, in part because it helps them feel better about themselves, and in part because they don’t care for governing and have nothing better to do with their time.
To reiterate what we discussed in March, this new Congress hasn’t been in session very long. At least in theory, members of both parties should be hard at work at, you know, governing. There are all kinds of problems in need of policymakers’ attention, and pointless vanity exercises about repealing a law that isn’t going anywhere may make Republicans feel warm and fuzy, but they’re clearly not serious.
There is a certain irony underscoring recent events. To listen to Republican rhetoric on Capitol Hill is to hear a series of complaints about President Obama: he’s not being “serious” enough about getting things done; he’s too focused on electoral considerations; he’s not “leading” in a way the far-right finds satisfactory; he’s reaching out to his rivals on the other side of the aisle but he doesn’t really mean it.
But it’s against this backdrop that Republicans vote, over and over again, to repeal a health care law they know won’t be repealed.
What would they replace it with? They don’t know. How would they pay for the repeal of a bill that lowers the deficit? That don’t know that, either. How many millions of Americans would suffer as a result of a repeal? They don’t know, and don’t seem especially interested in finding out.
It remains a post-policy party.
Postscript: It’s not a big deal, but that image featured above was put together by Cantor’s office, and it strikes me as kind of weird. It’s not enough that the Majority Leader schedule a vote; the Majority Leader’s aides have to make it seem as if the mere announcement about a vote is so significant, it deserves it’s own fancy, stylized image. It’s a little creepy.