Republican Health Reform Repeal Vote Is Just First Step

Just because total repeal doesn't pass in six months, doesn't mean it never will.

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By a vote of 245 to 189, the U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to repeal the new national healthcare law commonly referred to as “Obamacare.”

The White House dismissed the vote, both before and after, as a purely symbolic act since, in their calculation, it has no chance of being taken up in the U.S. Senate. And, even if it did, it would be subjected to a presidential veto that could not be overridden.

What is unfolding now is not so much a case of “overridden” as “over-reaching.”

The new law, which among other things requires every American to enroll in a health insurance program or pay what has been variously called “a fine,” “a penalty” or “a tax,” is wildly unpopular. It will not, as a number of healthcare and budget analysts have already explained, deliver on the political promises made by its supporters. It will make healthcare in the United States more expensive, put pressure on an already over-taxed federal budget and, in the long run, make actual healthcare--as opposed to health insurance--harder rather than easier to obtain. [See editorial cartoons about healthcare reform.]

In voting for repeal the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives is keeping faith with the promises it made during the 2010 election. They understand, as the White House and congressional Democrats do not seem to do, that their legitimacy and their chances for re-election depend on keeping them. Instead, the president’s party is dismissing the GOP efforts as political theater that will have little if any effect on the actual debate.

They couldn’t be more wrong. “Obamacare” is just one of many anti-job creation initiatives the White House has pushed over the last two years. Unemployment, for anyone who hasn’t bothered to look at the numbers, is up substantially from where it was when the GOP controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress. It is also up substantially from where it was when Bush was in the White House and Reid and Pelosi were in charge on Capitol Hill. And its not just the new healthcare law that threatens job creation: the cap-and-tax energy scheme, the government take over of the Internet in the name of “Net Neutrality,” the billions--if not hundreds of billions--wasted in the name of economic stimulus and the overlong debate on the extension of the current tax rates have all had an adverse impact on the creation of new jobs, which all the reliable polling data indicates is the number one issue on the minds of the American voter. [See editorial cartoons about the economy.]

Just because total repeal may not pass in the next six months does not mean it will never pass. The GOP is not going to give up on the issue and will soon pivot to efforts to dismantle it piece by piece if necessary, with the first move most likely coming against the individual mandate that is the cornerstone of the program. Individual senators will resist at their own peril. Of those up for re-election in 2012, 21 are Democrats, only 10 are Republicans. Two that have already announced their retirement, Democrat Kent Conrad of North Dakota (whose seat likely moves to the GOP column) and Democrat-turned-independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, are now free to ignore the wishes of their constituents who support repeal. The same is not true for Virginia’s Jim Webb, either of the Nelsons--Bill of Florida and Ben of Nebraska--Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow, Montana’s Jon Tester, Bob Casey, Jr. of Pennsylvania, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and Wisconsin’s Herb Kohl. They can vote “no” on repealing the individual elements of “Obamacare” that are the most unpopular with the voters for only so long before they put their re-election in jeopardy.

The Republicans can do the math, probably better than the White House can, meaning it’s going to be a long two years.

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