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House GOP again tackles Obamacare vanity exercise

At a distance, it would seem as if House Republicans have plenty of items on their to-do list. Immigration reform, for example, is pending, as are budget talks.

At a distance, it would seem as if House Republicans have plenty of items on their to-do list. Immigration reform, for example, is pending, as are budget talks. Federal lawmakers could also invest some time in preventing gun violence, combating the climate crisis, or if the country were really lucky, creating some jobs.

But the House GOP majority, hot on the heels of passing an anti-abortion bill that isn't going anywhere, turned their attention to gutting the Affordable Care Act yesterday. Yes, again.

It didn't work the first 37 times, but that didn't stop Republicans in the House Wednesday from passing two bills aimed at adjusting key parts of the Affordable Care Act.The House of Representatives voted 264-161 to pass a bill that would delay for one year the Affordable Care Act's provision requiring individuals to purchase health insurance or pay a fine.

The roll call on the vote is online here. One House Republican voted against it, arguing the measure wasn't right-wing enough, while 35 conservative House Democrats broke ranks.

Why would House majority go to the trouble of trying to undermine the federal health care law if they know full well the legislation has no chance of becoming law? Because for the chamber's post-policy Republicans, passing laws isn't necessarily a worthwhile endeavor -- yesterday was a vanity exercise, intended to make conservative feel better about themselves, make a few headlines, and create some fodder for 2014 campaign ads. Having lawmakers govern is passe; today's House GOP care about "message" votes that make the right feel warm and fuzzy.

As a substantive matter, delaying the individual mandate is a genuinely awful idea that would, among other things, leave 13.7 million Americans without any health care coverage at all, and by Republicans' own admission, lead to higher premiums and gaps for Americans with pre-existing conditions.

But at this point, substance is the last thing on the minds of the House GOP.

Dana Milbank, meanwhile, tackled perhaps the only interesting question remaining: exactly how many times have congressional Republicans engaged in this pointless charade?

According to The Washington Post's fact checker, Glenn Kessler, there were 37 votes to scale back Obamacare before Wednesday's two votes in the House. But those 39 don't include the Senate, where Reid's office has documented 28 votes, all but a couple in the form of Republican amendments. This might explain the new findings that Congress is holding more votes than ever but passing fewer bills.Wednesday's 66th and 67th attempts went much like the previous 65, except for a mid-debate recess so that lawmakers could have their official photograph taken on the House floor.

As much as I'd like to say GOP lawmakers will eventually grow tired of wasting their time (and ours) on such nonsense, we appear to be dealing with a well with no bottom.

"If it's 37, 38, 39, I don't care," Rep. Rich Nugent (R-Fla.) said this week. "If we do it 100 times, sooner or later we'll get it right."

Get what right?

Oh, never mind. If yesterday's debate was any indication, GOP lawmakers wouldn't understand the question anyway.