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House Republicans repeal Obamacare again. Why do they keep doing it?

House Republicans repealed Obamacare for the fourth time Thursday, and like their other efforts, it will go nowhere in the Senate. Yet for the party's base, it's hardly a pointless vote.

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Republicans have had some policy impact on the law already. On seven occasions, bills specifically targeting the health-care law or changes to the law folded into other bills have passed the House and been signed by the president.

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Republicans think it’s such a bad deal, in fact, that they’re willing to overlook something that usually stops bill dead in its tracks – the fact that repealing the law adds to the deficit. When the Congressional Budget Office looked at the impact of repealing the law in July 2012, it concluded that such legislation would add just over $100 billion to the deficit over the next decade.

They also see a political benefit. Senate Republicans’ campaign committee targeted Democratic Reps. Bruce Braley of Iowa and Gary Peters of Michigan, two 2014 Senate contenders, with statements challenging them to vote to repeal the health-care law, for example.

Conservatives remember the 2010 midterms, when rage about the health-care law helped them give congressional Democrats a “shellacking,” in the president’s words, and put Republicans into the majority in the House. It’s that 2010 election – and to a lesser extent the 2012 polls – that force the GOP to hold votes on the issue.

The Monitor/TIPP poll shows the public is split on the law, with 46 percent saying the law should be repealed in full but roughly the same share of Americans saying the bill should either be expanded or left as-is (21 and 24 percent, respectively).

However, momentum may be in the GOP's favor. Forty percent of Americans view the health-care law more negatively than they did one year ago, according to the poll, compared with 10 percent who view the law more favorably. A slim majority, 51 percent, oppose the law either somewhat or strongly, while 39 percent support the law in some fashion.

But the law is a lightning rod with the conservative base, and conservative lawmakers are concerned about appearing to go soft on the issue.

Several members on the GOP conference’s most rightward flank objected to voting for a GOP proposal that aimed to shift funds from one part of the law to another last month, arguing that because the conference had not yet voted to repeal the entire law yet. Republicans didn't want to appear to be validating the law by tweaking it before voting to rip it out by the roots once again.

Those conservative concerns didn’t appear to be misplaced on Thursday: The base is certainly paying close attention.

Obamacare was not far from the lips of tea party activists protesting the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups on Capitol Hill.

“When you think about Obamacare being implemented and 16,000 more people added to the IRS, are they going to be next determining who can get health care based on your political views?” asked Dianne Belsom, a leader of a South Carolina tea party group.

As such, the 37th vote almost certainly won’t be the last.

“Many people have said this issue was dead. Many people have said that Obamacare is here to stay. We are here as the people's representatives, as real people from across the United States, to say this issue is now revived,” said Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R) of Minnesota, the sponsor of the health-care repeal law. “It is back on the table.”


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