Legislation

The Phony Democratic Outrage Over Votes to Repeal Obamacare


Tea Party protesters demonstrate against the U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Healthcare Act in Washington, DC

Photograph by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Tea Party protesters demonstrate against the U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Healthcare Act in Washington, DC

Today, the House of Representatives will vote on repealing Obamacare. Sound familiar? It should. According to the office of House Whip Kevin McCarthy, this will be the 38th time the Republican-led House has voted to defund or repeal all or part of the law. Because the Senate won’t act—and because President Obama would veto any bill that somehow reached his desk—the vote will have no effect whatsoever on the law.

To the uninitiated, this may look like a classic example of Einstein’s definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. But there are several reasons why Republicans thinks this helps them. First, it gives the 36 freshman members a chance to go on record as having voted to repeal Obamacare. Second, because today’s vote is for full repeal—and not just to remove one of the law’s provisions—it ensures that every foe will remain committed to the cause. (If only, say, the menu-labeling provision were to be removed, restaurants might lose interest in opposing the law.) Finally, the vote serves to remind the public that the dreaded Obamacare is still around (20 percent of Americans wrongly believe it has been repealed), and it keeps the entire Republican caucus committed to the goal of repeal, lest anyone feel his or her faith starting to waver after the party’s 2012 defeat.

At this point, repealing the health-care law is practically a daily affirmation: “I am Republican House member [Your Name Here], and I want to repeal Obamacare.”

Officially, Democrats are gravely concerned by today’s vote and outraged at the ongoing effort to repeal their president’s central achievement. Yesterday, the White House released this statement (pdf): “The Administration strongly opposes House passage of H.R. 45 [the repeal bill] because it would cost millions of hard-working middle-class families the security of affordable health coverage and care they deserve. It would increase the deficit and detract from the work the Congress needs to do to focus on the economy and create jobs.”

But if they were being honest, here’s what they’d really like to say:

Why? Take the current debate over immigration as an example. Republicans who support a “Gang of Eight”-style reform bill do so primarily because they believe they must to win Latino voters and have a fighting shot in the next presidential election—exit polls showed that Obama won this group, 71 percent to 27 percent, last November. Republican opponents of a broad, amnesty-style reform argue that legalizing undocumented immigrants will do little to win their support (and may hurt the party with the blue-collar males it relies on).

Obamacare is a prime illustration of why they might be right. Latinos support the law at a higher rate than any other group. This Fox News poll from last fall found that 62 percent approved the president’s handling of health care. This Latino Decisions poll found that 66 percent think the government should ensure access to health care and 61 percent want to keep Obamacare in place. According to the government, about one-third of Latinos under 65 lack health insurance, many of them needy. Latinos are also far more likely than non-Latinos (39 percent to 26 percent) to agree that the government should do more to improve living standards for the poor.

Even if immigration reform were to sail through Congress and into law (it won’t), Republicans would still have to surmount this hurdle to win meaningful Latino support. Every vote to repeal Obamacare makes that job tougher, which is why most Democrats would be happy to see votes 39, 40, 41 ….

Green_190
Green is senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek in Washington. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaGreen.

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