The More Things Change…

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While the balance of power in Congress is likely to undergo a seismic shift tonight, at least one thing won’t change – the legislative maneuvers lawmakers undertake purely to score political points. Case in point – repeal of the Affordable Care Act. This law will be on the books so long as Barack Obama is in the White House. But don’t expect this inconvenient truth to stop House Republicans – assuming they have a majority in the next Congress – from bringing full repeal up for a vote.

They owe this to many of their voters, frankly. Republicans have spent lots of time on the campaign trail this year promising to “repeal Obamacare,” and they’d have a tough time explaining to their supporters that they backed down out of pragmatism. As Dow Jones reports:

“I believe we’ll see a vote very quickly,” said Rep. Charles Boustany (R., La.). “Whether or not there’s a willingness of the Senate to move in that direction, it’s important to have the vote…”

In addition to placating voters who want the Affordable Care Act scrapped, House Republicans may use a repeal vote to position themselves for a showdown with Obama, which some Republicans have said may go even further – to a government shutdown over the ACA. If a shutdown does occur, a carefully plotted public relations effort ahead of time will be the key to appearing victorious, as Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton can attest.

While both Obama and key GOP leaders are saying publicly that a government shutdown is not their goal, this is part of the plotting. Both sides have to appear to abhor the idea of a government shutdown so that, if it occurs, they can say, “We never wanted this. Blame the other side.” Still, you can bet both sides are contemplating the possibility – however remote it might be – strategizing now on how they can win the PR fight.