Since January of 2011, the House of Representatives has voted on partially or entirely repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the health care reform bill also known as Obamacare) 33 times, with the most recent vote taking place on July 11th. The GOP leadership has stated that disarming the president’s bill is a top priority.
Despite President Obama vowing not to sign a bill that would damage his cornerstone policy achievement, despite that a repeal would not stand a chance at passing in a Democratic-held Senate, and despite that the US Supreme Court has upheld the validity of the law’s most controversial provision, the House GOP remains dedicated to tearing it down.
As David Grant explains in the Christian Science Monitor, the GOP has various possible motives for its futile tactics. Mainly, anti-Obamacare sentiment fires up the Republican voter base, an essential strategy for defeating an incumbent President. By bringing up Obamacare as frequently as possible, and especially by arguing that the bill will stifle job creation, the House Republican leadership has their sights on elections and campaign strategy.
John Boehner wrote an op-ed for the Washington Times on the subject, saying, “Obama spent more than a year trying to push the health care law through Congress over the objections of the American people, who wanted the president to focus instead on policies that would remove obstacles to private-sector job creation.” Though Boehner may be right that health care was prioritized while the economy was hurting, now he continues to prioritize its removal while the economy continues to hurt.
With productivity in Congress nearly at an all-time low, these unnecessary votes reflect the increasing futility of Washington. The people have made it clear that the economy is their priority, yet Congress is stalled on issues that have already been decided.
According to a study by the Pew Research Center, only 19% of Independents report viewing Congress favorably. Moreover, 60% of Americans want to see Congress compromise.
With more and more Americans abandoning the two-party system and crying out for policy that addresses real issues through real cooperation, it is remarkable that the House has 33 times debated an issue that allows for none of these things.
No matter where one stands on the health care debate, no one supports putting campaigning above strong policy-making. As Independent voters become increasingly fed up with Congress, Washington lawmakers will need to start focusing on policy that addresses real and present issues to keep their major parties afloat.