Why House GOP is pushing doomed health-care repeal – again

Wednesday's House vote marks the 33rd time that Republicans have tried to cut back or repeal President Obama's health-care law. They know it's going nowhere, but they have their reasons.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R) of California speaks to Burger chain White Castle Systems, Inc. Vice President Jamie Richardson (l.) on Capitol Hill Tuesday, at the conclusion of his committee's hearing on 'Examining the Impact of Obamacare on Job Creators and the Economy.'

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try some 30 more times – at least if you’re House Republicans, who will vote to repeal President Obama’s health-care reform law in total for the second time Wednesday afternoon, making their 33rd overall whack at defunding, rolling back, or otherwise attempting to short-circuit the law.

So will the GOP’s second full repeal of the law be the charm? Hardly. The measure won’t see the light of day in the Democrat-held Senate. But it will serve several political purposes for both parties.

Republicans will use the vote as election-year fodder to fire up their conservative base, turn up the heat on vulnerable Democrats from conservative-leaning districts, and press their argument that Mr. Obama’s health-care reforms are shackling the economy.

Democrats, on the other hand, dismissed the vote as a political charade, attacking Republicans for taking their eye off the economy and failing to offer their own plan to replace the law the GOP derides as “Obamacare.”

The measure speaks to a core concern of many conservative voters – 86 percent of Republicans surveyed by CNN/ORC in late June and early July favored a total repeal of the measure.

And it’s not just among Republicans that conservative lawmakers believe they’ve got a winning issue. They believe that when Obamacare is in the headlines – as it was during the 2010 wave election that brought Republicans back into power in the House – GOP candidates win.

“The Supreme Court’s decision forces Obamacare to be litigated in the 2012 elections, and in virtually every case where Obamacare has been litigated by voters in an election, the law and its supporters lose,” wrote Jonathan Collegio, communications director for GOP "super political-action committee" American Crossroads, in a statement shortly after the Supreme Court ruled the law constitutional in late June.

This issue is top-of-mind for some vulnerable Democrats. Two embattled North Carolina members, Reps. Mike McIntyre and Larry Kissell, voted with Republicans on a procedural matter related to the vote on Tuesday. (They were joined by two other retiring Democrats, Reps. Dan Boren of Oklahoma and Mike Ross of Arkansas.)

But key to winning on this issue in November will be Republicans' ability to tie the health-care reform to the economy, a connection perpetually on the lips of the GOP’s leadership in the House.

“There’s a number of different reasons why we should repeal the president’s health-care law. But one, and most importantly, is what it’s doing to jobs. How many small businesspeople are at 48 who will never go to 50 employees?” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R) of Texas, the chairman of the Republican House conference, on Tuesday, referring to a cutoff in the law that excludes employers with less than 50 employees from an employer mandate to offer health coverage.

Meanwhile, House Democrats used the day to champion their proposals for job creation, rebuking Republican colleagues for prioritizing health-care reform over the economy.

House Minority whip Steny Hoyer (D) of Maryland touted the Democrat-backed “Make It In America” program alongside a half dozen House colleagues at a press conference Wednesday, saying the plan would rebuild infrastructure, bolster job-skills training, and enforce trade rules more effectively. The two-year-old plan reflects a cross-section of legislation Democrats say will help the American economy by strengthening domestic industries and job growth.

“Our focus ought to be on finding economic solutions that will create jobs now,” Mr. Hoyer said. “It is time to go on offense.”

Jobs weren’t the only place Democrats were on offense – they also hit Republicans for not offering an alternative to the president’s bill.

Rep. Joseph Crowley (D) of New York brought a picture of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup to the House floor, arguing that Republicans’ health-care plans were little more than an incantation to eat your chicken noodle soup. 

“I hold in my left hand the Affordable Care Act,” added Rep. Al Green (D) of Texas, nearly 3,000 pages of the president’s bill hanging therein.

“I hold in my right hand the replacement bill that my colleagues across the aisle have been talking about,” he added, offering an empty hand.

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