The House of Representatives will vote on whether or not to repeal ObamaCare today. They’re pretty good at this, having already done it 30 times before.
Everyone expects the measure to pass the House and die in the Senate. Naturally President Obama would veto it, should it somehow avoid having its heart pulled out in the Senate Temple of Doom, but Senate Democrats would never dream of asking Obama to pick up that veto pen.
Is this sort of purely symbolic vote a waste of time? Even if you see it that way, there’s no way to forbid such votes. The House can’t pass a rule that says “no one can introduce a bill unless it has really good odds of getting past the Senate and White House.” Deliberative bodies are supposed to deliberate. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and legislators gotta introduce doomed legislation to force their political opponents to shoot it down.
Also, there is positive value to get representatives formally on the record. Incumbency carries many advantages, but one of the few balancing disadvantages is the accumulation of a legislative record, which challengers can run against. This concept has already been degraded considerably by the rise of huge omnibus bills, which often make it more difficult to pinpoint what a representative voted for, or against, than it was for physicists to locate the Higgs boson particle. At least the Higgs boson can’t run a multi-million dollar ad campaign to convince scientists that it’s really a proton.
The ObamaCare situation has changed considerably since the House made its previous ritual sacrifice of a helpless repeal bill to the Senate. The Supreme Court weighed in, and found a way to uphold ObamaCare as constitutional. Another vote to get everyone on the record one last time before the election, with the Court decision factored in, is not a waste of effort.
Deliberation over the new repeal bill also gives representatives a chance to speak on the record, with respect to both ObamaCare’s national implications, and its specific impact upon their constituents. For example, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) said, “Every day in Indiana I hear people tell me that ObamaCare is stifling our recovery. If it is not repealed in full, Hoosiers will face higher health care costs and increased taxes. The medical device tax alone could cost Indiana more than 2,000 jobs.”
“But the issue before us today is not just about economic growth,” Pence continued. “It is about freedom. ObamaCare erodes the freedom of every American, opening the door for the federal government to legislate, regulate and mandate nearly every aspect of our daily lives under the guise of its taxing power. Left unchanged, ObamaCare will change this country forever. But I truly believe in my heart this law will not stand. For, in the end, the fate of our freedoms rests not in the hands of a president, a Congress or a court. For we are, and have always been, and shall ever remain, a government of the people, and by the people, and for the people.”
Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) used the occasion of the new ObamaCare repeal vote to provide an extensive list of the “many broken promises” surrounding the President’s health care plan, including the way it has increased health care premiums, added to the national debt, and raised taxes. He also mentioned one of the most infamous broken promises in American political history: “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”
“Repeal is also the only way to honor and restore the promises the president wisely made but foolishly broke,” Upton concluded. “The Supreme Court rendered its diagnosis, but the American people will be offering a second opinion. For now, we promised the American people that we would work to repeal this terrible law, and that is a promise we are keeping.”
There will be more votes to come, on the far side of the next election. Getting the representatives of both parties on the record one last time – between the moment when the Supreme Court had its say and the hour when voters will get theirs – is not a futile exercise, even though the ultimate fate of this particular bill is not really in doubt.