House Republicans advanced legislation Tuesday to dismantle President Barack Obama's health law that could actually reach the president's desk. The House GOP has voted more than 50 times to repeal all or parts of the health law. Almost all the bills died in the Senate. But this time, Republicans are using a special process that prevents Senate Democrats from blocking the legislation.
It's hard to say with confidence exactly how many times congressional Republicans have voted to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act. Everyone can agree that it's happened several dozen times, and we know that in each instance the vote served no practical purpose, but these gambits have happened so often, exact tallies vary.
Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee yesterday put the grand total at 60, which is probably about right, though it's apparently now time to update the never-ending list. The Associated Press reported yesterday:
The process is called the "budget reconciliation process" -- or just "reconciliation," for short -- that allows budget-related bills to be considered in both chambers while prohibiting Senate filibusters.
In other words, GOP lawmakers have already voted several dozen times to gut the U.S. health care system, but this will likely be the first time they'll force a presidential veto on the matter.
But if Congress knows President Obama will veto Republican efforts to take Americans health benefits away, why bother? The answer isn't necessarily obvious.
On the surface, the endeavor is just raw partisanship -- GOP lawmakers want to be able to boast to their rabid base that they tried, repeatedly, to repeal "Obamacare." But just below the surface, congressional Republicans see this as a dry run of sorts. They believe that there's a real chance that in 2017, Americans will have elected a Republican president and a Republican Congress, at which point GOP officials will need a plan to tear down the health system currently in place.
It makes this year's gambit a proof-of-concept test. If they can use reconciliation to repeal all or part of the ACA now, they can simply repeat the process two years from now.
Long-time readers may recall that the reconciliation process is only intended for bills that reduce the deficit, which is a problem for Republicans since ACA repeal would do the opposite. But they intend to move forward with the plan anyway.
It should go without saying, but it's probably worth emphasizing that the Affordable Care Act is working very well; it's increasingly popular; and it's withstood Supreme Court challenges. There's simply no credible reason to pursue a repeal crusade, and once in a while, GOP officials seem to forget what it is they hate about the law.
And yet, here we are.
Postscript: House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said yesterday that by going down this course, Congress can "start working toward a more affordable, higher-quality, patient-centered system."
Ryan and his far-right colleagues have assured Americans for nearly six years that Republicans will unveil a plan for "a more affordable, higher-quality, patient-centered system." He and his party have broken that promise nearly as many times as they've voted to repeal Obamacare.