House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office just announced that the chamber will take up the health care repeal effort next week. A vote on the measure, expected to pass easily but get stonewalled in the Senate, was originally scheduled for Jan. 12. Speaker John Boehner postponed it in the wake of the Tucson shooting. In retrospect and given the tone set by President Obama’s speech last night, that seems to have been a very wise decision.
Political truces in Washington are always fleeting and next week’s health care debate will provide the first test of how long this one will hold. Of course, Republicans will proceed with their symbolic vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. There’s no reason they shouldn’t. They have the votes to do so and they promised their constituents. The test will be in the tone of the thing. There’s no real ball to move forward here. Health care reform is the law of the land and, while it may be whittled down somewhat, it’s not likely to be overturned by Congress. This means fear-mongering floor speeches from either side of the aisle will serve no purpose other than to land political blows and whip voters into a frenzy over their distrust of their political opponents. Will these kinds of over-simplified and even dishonest rhetorical excesses happen over health care next week? Probably. But there’s an opportunity for things to go differently.