Will the 37th Obamacare Repeal Attempt Be a Waste of Time?

The healthcare reform legislation known as Obamacare was passed in March of 2010, but in the intervening years, many attempts have been made to repeal all or part of the bill. Republican House of Representative and Senate lawmakers have tried a series of legislative gimmicks — including procedural moves, budgeting provisions, and outright legislation, to take the law off the books. Now, the 37th attempt is at hand. Republican legislatures in the House scheduled yet another vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act for Thursday.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor initiated the vote, tweeting last week: “It just keeps getting worse. I am scheduling a vote for next week on the full repeal of #Obamacare.”

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While statistically this 37th time likely will not be the charm, the motivations behind the umpteenth vote are more than pure political spectacle. There are some very tangible political benefits for Republicans to vote against the legislation that was championed by President Barack Obama; repealing the healthcare law is an issue capable of uniting the entire Republican party, which has split over several key bills so far this year. Even after the electoral losses last November, more Republicans now come from conservative districts where healthcare remains as an important an issue as it was in 2010.

For these newly elected representatives, another vote on healthcare would give them a chance at the Republican rite of passage. “The guys who’ve been up here the last year, we can go home and say, ‘Listen, we voted 36 different times to repeal or replace Obamacare,’ ” said Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina at a gathering of conservatives recently, according to The New York Times. “Tell me what the new guys are supposed to say?”

In total, Republicans have set aside time to vote on the healthcare reform on at least 43 days since taking over the House in January 2011. To put that in perspective, they have held votes on only 281 days since coming to power, and this means that 15 percent of their time on the House floor has been devoted to debating the repeal in some way. Liberals have attacked Republicans for the amount of time spent on repeal efforts, saying that it shows poor prioritization for a party whose accomplishments this year include passing a bill that kept the Federal Helium Reserve open and one that modified the requirements for coins commemorating the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

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But spokesman Michael Steel told the Times that 15 percent of their time was in no way a waste for Republicans. “Given that the bill amounts to a takeover of roughly 15 percent of the American economy,” he said, “that sounds about right.” More importantly for the GOP, the more than three dozen repeal attempts have noticeably amended the provisions of the Affordable Care Act and changed how the public perceives the legislation. The numerous repeal attempts have even left some members of the American public confused. A survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation last month showed that one in eight people think that Congress repealed Obamacare.

Still, this style of legislating has drawn a great deal of criticism. To George Washington University political science professor Sarah Binder, the number of repeal attempts Republicans have made indicates that there is “very little legislating going on the House floor.”

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