Groundhog Day in the House: A Gift to Republican Freshmen, and Possibly Democrats Too

It was the 37th time since taking control in 2011 that House Republicans have voted to repeal or defund all or parts of the President's signature legislative achievement.

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Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Speaker of the House John Boehner at a news conference on Capitol Hill with a printed version of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, in Washington, D.C., on May 16, 2013.

The House of Representatives voted Thursday to repeal Barack Obama‘s health-care reform law. You have read that sentence before. It was the 37th time Republicans have voted to repeal or defund all or part of the President’s signature legislative achievement since taking control of the House in 2011. Democrats still hold the Senate, and Obama was re-elected, so the bill is doomed to die. Republicans are well aware of this. “Obamacare is the law of the land,” Speaker John Boehner conceded after the President won a second term. So why bother to go through the rigamarole of passing a bill that has zero chance of becoming law?

As a sop to House GOP freshmen, mainly. Unlike the rest of the GOP majority, the three-dozen Republican rookies had yet to register a vote against the law. Nearly all of them blistered the health-care bill on their way to Washington, and they wanted an opportunity to live up to the rhetoric. The 112th Congress may have spent dozens of hours litigating the point, “but this is my first time,” said Tom Rice, a Republican freshman from South Carolina. “The constituents who sent me here want my vote recorded.” Republican leaders decided to throw him a bone. Many conservatives also expect the issue to be a boon on the campaign trail during the 2014 midterm elections, particularly if the law’s implementation is bumpy.

Democrats view it as a gift as well. They’ve spent the week slamming their opponents for squandering time and money on symbolic votes, noting the opportunity cost of devoting valuable time on the floor to a purely symbolic measure. “You can repeal it 37 more times, and it’ll be just as dead when it gets to the Senate,” scoffed Democratic Congressman Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania. “This is a waste of time…you should be ashamed of yourself.”

Just as Republicans believe they benefit from going on the record against a controversial law, Democrats are convinced the effort will boost their image with the very people the GOP are vying to court. In a recent national poll, Latinos favored the law by a margin of more than 2 to 1. For Republicans, harping on their opposition to Obamacare could mitigate any gains the party hopes to make with Hispanics through immigration reform. The Democratic Congressional Campaign used the vote to target vulnerable Republicans incumbents, spraying phone calls that highlight the law’s most popular provisions.

And so both sides slogged through three hours of theater: summoning outrage, denouncing each other, repeating the same arguments, hauling out charts and carting around towers of paper. The final vote was 229 to 195, with two Democrats supporting repeal and no Republicans voting against it. “An embarrassing spectacle,” Democrat Sander Levin called the  37th installment of the House’s crusade against Obamacare. (This was the third stand-alone repeal vote since 2011; smaller health-care changes have passed the Senate and been signed into law.)

But what better things are they doing? All year the House has been a legislative backwater, consigned to waiting as the Senate weighs issues like gun control, the budget and immigration. The 112th Congress was the least productive in generations. The 113th could be even worse.

25 comments
drudown
drudown

In other news, the issuance of Veterans benefits are years behind.

Gee, maybe the People could have used the money the GOP wasted on these staged "protests"...er, never mind.

drudown
drudown

What a waste of taxpayer money and legislative resources.

The GOP lost its battle with Obamacare at the Supreme Court level. 

Enough of this special interest-driven, imageless act. 

The Independent Judiciary is the sole arbiter of "what the law means" on this issue. 

Yet the corrupted GOP Congress thinks its Big Business campaign contributors can "buy" their way around it. Sad, even.

paulejb
paulejb

Getting Democrats on the record as the supporters of ObamaCare will be important once the train wreck hits. The nation's voters should know that the ObamaCare abomination is a Democrat party production. That way they can exact revenge when they lose the health care they once had.

Here are two examples of the blatant bulls**t used to sell ObamaCare to low information libs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LRcLMScEqo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4rkKzajF7Y

TroyOwen
TroyOwen

What is the definition of "insanity" again?

fitty_three
fitty_three

It's pretty hard for the GOP to get traction on anything nowadays.  The economy is improving, and unemployment is steadily falling (caveats noted), tax revenues are up, so what do they have left to sell?

My grandmother?

DerekHologram
DerekHologram

Nice to see Republicans spending time and the tax payer's money on legislation that has absolutely no possibility of passing. Can the tax payer get a refund?

jwarrencollins
jwarrencollins

I want to suggest that all this malfunction is a result of a half dozen individuals in the House and Senate. Cantor, Boehner, McConnell, Graham, to name a few. The states that continue to impose these recalcitrant, unwise, unfit, counter-productive personalities on the rest of the nation seem to have no shame. A few childish personalities, and the whole nation devolves to third world status. Shameful.

MrObvious
MrObvious

 All year the House has been a legislative backwater, consigned to waiting as the Senate weighs issues like gun control, the budget and immigration. The 112th Congress was the least productive in generations. The 113th could be even worse.

What can I say? GOPers are lazy. They don't want to legislate. They want to reward their donors by letting them keep their tax deductions, hollow out regulation and waste our political will on symbolic indignation. And they manage to do that while being in DC half the amount of time. So not only do they waste time repealing things like Obama care and being political duds in general, they're also barely there long enough to act like duds.

La_Randy
La_Randy

This is indicative of the best the gop can do legislatively. Doing the same thing over and over again, I remember somebody stating what that means, but I forgot who. 

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

I can understand the idea that the freshmen should get a chance to register their vote.  And I understand them voting to repeal it in the 112th.  That still doesn't explain the other 35 votes.

Sue_N
Sue_N

And I thought the 112th Congress was useless.

barneydidit
barneydidit

How ironic is it that most of these Republicans that were elected to the House in 2010, got there by insisting that Obama failed to maintain a "laser focus on jobs"?

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

At what point do we start docking these idiots pay for wasting everyone's time?

TyPollard
TyPollard

For those that hate government, solving problems is the last thing they want to do. That is why all their attention is focused on Obama and Hillary and the made up scandals du jour. Legislating is for losers.

barneydidit
barneydidit

@paulejb Sorry Paule, can't have it both ways. You're claiming Obama is culpable for Benghazi because he's at the top of the pecking order, but you're stopping responsibility for the IRS issue BEFORE you get to the top of that pecking order-Douglas Shulman...a Bush Appointee. 

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@paulejb And this has what to do with this article exactly? The proverbial look a squirrel!

curt3rd
curt3rd

I laughed out loud at that one.  Unfortunately thats pretty much all I can do about it.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@paulejb And they will Paule. Guess what else will go down under Obamacare? Any hope the GOP ever had of being a national party.

barneydidit
barneydidit

@MrObvious This is apparently what a "laser focus on jobs" looks like in the GOP universe.  It's the same universe where one person is held without accountability for actions that result in the deaths of 4,000 individuals, while another is branded as the worst leader in history when 4 die while he's in charge. 

tom.litton
tom.litton

@barneydidit I wished democrats would have used all their time for debate pushing jobs bills.

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

@mantisdragon91 A Democratic congresswoman was on TV today noting that the 37 votes have cost the taxpayers upwards of $54 million dollars. (Calculated by how much these folks are paid and how much time they've spent on it.) 

Fiscal responsiblity my well-chewed cigar.