This week, after the delay caused by the tragic Tucson, Arizona shooting, the House of Representatives takes up H.R. 2, the Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act. The bill would repeal “Obamacare,” also known as Public Law 111-148, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
If you know about congressional procedure, though, you know that the law isn’t going away any time soon. A bill to repeal Obamacare has to be passed by the Senate, and the president must sign it. In the Senate, a bill must pass by a majority of its 100 members, and Republicans don’t have a majority. They have 47. To top it off, most bills require a 60-vote majority because of a thing called the “cloture” rule, which requires 60 votes to end debate and prevent a filibuster.
Were the bill to get out of the Senate, there is, of course, the president, who—breaking news here—is not going to sign a bill to repeal a signature achievement. A veto override takes 2/3rds majorities in both the House and Senate. That means 290 votes in the House and 67 votes in the Senate. The bill passed 219 – 212 in the House and 60 – 39 in the Senate.
So this bill is totally for show. There’s no way it’s passing. Or is it?
The election last November, which awarded control of the House to the Republicans, appears to them to have signaled strong dissatisfaction with the new health care law. If they can pass their repeal in the House, and it gets held up in the Senate, they show the public that a change of control in the Senate will help repeal the health care law.
It might even be possible to get it through the Senate if Republicans there can attach it to a must-pass bill as an amendment—which only needs 50 votes—and convince three Democrats to vote with them. Three Democrats looking down the barrel of an election could be swayed…
Then the bill goes to the president where it will be vetoed. This will signal to the public that a change in the presidency would help repeal the health care law.
The Republicans don’t plan to pass their repeal bill into law, but they do plan to have “an issue.” That’s when one party works it so that the other party has to go on the record on the wrong side of public opinion (as they see it). That helps win elections.
We’ll see if the whole gambit pays off. But that’s how the politics of Obamacare repeal shake out.
The most significant debates in Washington seem like both a fight among children on the playground and the most important signals about the direction of the country. Wherever you are on Obamacare and its potential repeal, we’ll continue to watch with interest and hope you will too.
Here’s the current vote on H.R. 2, the Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act. Click to vote, comment, learn more, or edit the wiki article on the bill.