The Republican-controlled House is poised to vote on a clean repeal of the national health care law. Policy debates aside (my views on the substance of the law are well documented), from a purely political perspective, passing a repeal bill in the House is a no-brainer for Republicans.
Democrats are making several familiar arguments to counter the repeal drive. Mostly, they are emphasizing the more popular provisions of the law and insisting that repeal will increase the deficit. Yet Democrats tried to make these arguments throughout the health care debate and the 2010 elections to no avail. People view the law as a whole rather than by its component parts and they’ve never bought Democrats’ deficit reduction claims, even when they cite the Congressional Budget Office. As a result, the law remains unpopular.
Democrats are also blasting Republicans for taking on health care rather than jobs at a time of high unemployment – an attempt to turn the tables on the GOP, which used that argument effectively against Democrats in 2010. Yet the reason why the jobs argument resonated when Republicans used it is that Democrats spent 13 months crafting a 2,000-page plus health care bill and maneuvering it through Congress. By contrast, House Republicans will pass a quick two-page repeal of the law, and then move on. Additionally, given that they control just one chamber of Congress rather than both chambers and the presidency, they are unlikely to be held as responsible for the condition of the economy as Democrats were in 2010. To put it another way, if House Republicans passed a bunch of economic bills and the economy took off, would Democrats allow them to take credit for a boom in the 2012 election?
In 2010, Republicans forged a coalition of conservative and independent voters, and if they’re to make further gains in the next election, they’ll have to avoid alienating either group. Passing a repeal of ObamaCare in the House – even one that won’t get through the Senate – is the bare minimum that would be expected of the new majority from conservatives, and the health care law remains unpopular among independents. It has the added bonus of forcing Democrats from conservative districts to cast tough votes. So the GOP has nothing to lose and everything to gain by passing a repeal bill.
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