For the 33rd time since they took control of the House of Representatives, the GOP leadership scheduled and voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The vote in the House was purely symbolic as the democratically controlled Senate will most likely not vote on the repeal and President Obama would never sign such a repeal. This leaves many asking, “why does the GOP continue to even attempt it?”
Symbolic votes like this are not uncommon in any Congress and in fact there is a long tradition of such votes on both sides of the aisle to position a particular party either for or against an issue and to make the opposing side go on record. These votes are very common during an election year when member votes can be used against them in a campaign by their opponents.
The GOP’s latest vote came in response to the Supreme Court’s June 28 ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act. Party leaders have been on record opposing the Act since before it was signed into law and they wanted to show their supporters who deeply oppose the law that they were still doing what they could to repeal it.
The Affordable Care Act, like many policies in our current political environment, is loved by just about half the country and hated by the other half. This partisan take on the law allows the opponents of the law to continue to attack it and try to repeal it without much consequence. Those who support the law tend to be Democrats and will not vote for the GOP and those who oppose the law want it repealed. For the GOP, the repeal votes are a way to keep their base energized and to raise campaign funds. It matters not what the pundits or press say about the futility of taking these votes, and in fact it doesn’t matter that the law will not be repealed. The vote is a statement of encouragement to the base that is needed to turn out to vote when the polls open in November and to open their checkbooks before then. This works the other way as well. Many Democrats vilify the GOP for taking these votes and challenge them to move on, but the votes allow these same Democrats to energize their base and raise money by pointing out that the GOP is trying to get rid of the President’s signature achievement.
The repeal votes are also a way to put vulnerable Democrats who represent swing or conservative districts on record. For these Democrats, who desperately want to move past Obamacare, making them choose sides is a no-win proposition. Should they vote to repeal, their party and their base of voters will be angry and turned off. Should they vote against repeal, the GOP will accuse them of putting party over their constituents and many will not survive.
When the latest repeal vote was taken on July 11, 2012, 5 Democrats joined the GOP in their effort to repeal the law.
Finally, there is the argument that many in the GOP honestly believe the law is bad for the country and feel it is their duty to repeal it. Whatever the reason, the battle over Obamacare will most likely continue.