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Why the Health Care Repeal Vote Really is Just Symbolic

January 19, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Later today, the House of Representatives will vote on a bill to repeal health care reform, and it is expected to pass (UPDATE: the repeal bill passed by a vote of 245-189). But don’t be fooled — it is purely symbolic and there is no chance that it will become law. Here are three reasons why.

1) Senate Majority Leader Reid will never take it up. Remember, bills have to be approved by the House and the Senate before they can become law, and the Democrats still control the Senate. The Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV], has almost total control over what measures are voted on, and having spent most of the previous session working to pass the health care reform law, there’s no way he would decide now to hold a vote on repealing it. Now, there is a way that Senate Republicans can attempt to override Reid’s decision not to vote on it. They can object to the second reading of it when it is sent up from the House, putting it directly on the Senate calendar, and file a cloture petition on a motion to proceed to it. A day and an hour after the the petition is filed, the Senate would have to vote on ending debate of whether or not to debate the repeal bill. That motion takes 60 votes to pass, but the Republicans only have 47 seats.

2) Even if he did, the votes aren’t there in the Senate. If for some reason Reid is feeling generous and decides try to bring the repeal bill up for a vote, rank-and-file Democrats would object and force repeal-supporters to take a cloture vote, which, again, takes 60 votes. Thanks to a repeal vote that was forced last year by Sen. David Vitter [R, LA], we know that none of the Democrats from the 111th Congress want a repeal. There is only one new Democrat in the Senate, Sen. Richard Blumenthal [D, CT], and he has said that he supports the health care reform bill and wants to go further. So the Republicans are still 13 votes short of being able to invoke cloture on a theoretical Reid motion to debate the repeal bill.

3) Obama would veto. As if scenario 2), Reid calling for a repeal vote, wasn’t ridiculous enough, let’s consider what would happen if the Senate and House passed the repeal bill and sent it to Obama. There’s no need to speculate here — Obama has already issued a statement of administration policy that he would veto the repeal, saying it would “explode the deficit, raise costs for the American people and businesses, deny an estimated 32 million people health insurance, and take us back to the days when insurers could deny, limit or drop coverage for any American.” To override the veto, the Senate and House would both have to find 2/3rds supermajorities. The Republicans are far short of a supermajority in both chambers, by 49 in the House and by 20 in the Senate.

The fact that this bill is just a symbolic political move makes it less of a big deal that the Republicans are bringing it up under a closed rule, despite saying on the campaign trail that they would use open rules, and without accounting for its $230 billion impact on the deficit, despite their pledge to offset all new deficit costs with corresponding spending cuts. Open debate rules and hard-line budget discipline are good for serious legislating, but when working on political fluff bills like the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act,” it’s only appropriate to set them aside and just plow through.

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  • admass 01/19/2011 6:22am

    I, for one, want to see the whole bill repealed and THEN, see our congress get together and deal with those issues concerning health care reform on an individual basis. I do not want to see a document such as this one stand; it is filled with so many things that have nothing to do with health care at all, not to mention the (un)popular parts such as mandates, etc. Take one issue at a time, come to an agreement on it and pass that…then address the next issue. Attaching unpopular extras to a piece of legislation that is expected to pass, is not the honest way to deal with issues.

  • Sparhawk2k 01/19/2011 8:01am

    First, I really don’t want it repealed, especially in such a silly way. But I was wondering about one other technicality of the process. I know bills have to be approved by both the House and the Senate… But does it need to be the same year? Could the House pass it and nothing happen now because the Senate doesn’t have the votes? And then when the Senate makeup changes, could they pass the House’s bill without changes and have it go to the President? Even if the current House has also changed and wouldn’t have passed that bill anymore?

    Obviously this is a rather far fetched scenario… I was just curious.

  • Comm_reply
    donnyshaw 01/19/2011 9:57am

    Nope. Bills do not carry over from session to session. At the end of each session, all bills that did not become law die. The slate is simple wiped clean.

  • scud42 01/19/2011 8:13am

    What I think a lot of people are missing when they look at this vote is the politics of it. This vote is putting new Democratic reps from moderate districts in a predicament. They either vote for repeal, and then alienate their base supporters in their district, or vote against repeal, and piss off the moderates and conservatives in their district. Repubs are smartly bringing this up for a vote….really they could bring 10 repeal bills to the floor durint the entire congress, and each one would serve to try to injure democrats politically.

  • Comm_reply
    luminous 01/19/2011 9:16am

    Not really, the polling trend line for this piece of law has been continually improving sense the date it was signed into law, The longer this thing sits on the books that harder it will be for republicans to kill it. Their are probably a few moderate republicans that will vote against repeal in the senate if it where to be brought up for a vote, It would be very interesting to see what Sen. Olympia Snow, or maybe sen. Scott Brown will do. They will both get Tea’ed on either way a vote against repeal might give them some room as an independent or perhaps opportunity to change party(at least in the case of Olympia Snow).

  • Comm_reply
    scud42 01/20/2011 3:32am

    I agree the longer this law is in effect the more people will realize that they probably don’t want to go back to the way things were. Which is exactly why they are bringing it up now. There is still a 7 point (avg) spread of people that dislike the new law over people that do…albeit some of those think the law is not liberal enough. One of the main reason the republicans did so well last November was that their base and independants were so energized to vote for them. Boehner brings this up now to feed the base, and does it early enough before the election season so it’s less of an issue come next November.

    Reid has already indicated this will not come up for a vote, so this will not cause senators to take tough votes.

  • SusanBS 01/19/2011 9:54am

    Shame on Obama for not doing it right the first time and shame on him for not keeping it transparent as promised! Shame on him for stooping to threats and bribes to pass. Over two thousand pages? Mid-elections sure didn’t have anyone boasting and running on this bill – Obama and Pelosi even had to stay away and lay low. Obama and Pelosi thought this bill be their historical legacy of praise – not. Their haste and ways has brought us to here today. This is all I need to know it’s not what it should be. Honesty doesn’t have to hide, threaten or bribe. End of story – I wish this was a true repeal and it could be a re-do openly and honestly and consistently.

  • Comm_reply
    scud42 01/20/2011 3:40am

    Problem is without the insurance companies, drug companies, and health care advocates on their side, the Dems could never have gotten ANYTHING passed. Imagine the president and congress trying to go toe to toe with nearly every health care lobby AND the Republicans… Nothing would have happened.

    Bottom line is that the bill passed, it won’t get repealed, and as soon as people see how this benefits them: They will no longer hate the bill.

    This is social legislation, like SS and Medicare, they both had strong opposition when they were enacted, and eventually led to a signature acheivement for their respective presidents.

    Either way, it will be great to watch the health care fight in 2012. Republicans are going to have to show that they can come up with ideas that Obama-care doesn’t already have. Unfortunately for Republicans, the Democrats used maost of their ideas in the bill!

  • twistfinger 01/19/2011 4:58pm

    At this point, I would find it surprising if Obama didn’t veto the repeal.

  • DeborahJBrown 01/20/2011 3:57am

    Most Americans who oppose the bill don’t really understand it’s benefits to them. They simply react to the word “Obama-care” and oppose anything Obama. If this bill were to be repealed the only winners are insurance companies.

  • Checkless 01/20/2011 4:45am

    I am appalled that the Republicans would take this matter up when there are millions of Americans including myself without a job or unemployment compensation. My question regarding health care is we all are required to have automobile insurance and we should have some type of bill in place so that everyone regardless of their economic status be able to get medical help when and if needed. I think that if we take care of the unemployed, by additional weeks for the ones who have exhausted their unemployment we would be back on track. If congress feels that the unemployed should not have an additional tier added and additional unemployment compensation help available until the economy recovers then I would like to see them give up their salary until the economy recovers. That’s not asking too much if they feel that I should do without then let’s all do without. They can’t make it without their salaries. How do they expect me to surive without anything?

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