Susan Estrich: For House GOP and Obamacare Repeal, 33rd Time Still Not the Charm
Republican lawmakers are just wasting the peoples' time and money with silly 'symbolic' votes
In a colossal waste of time, the House of Representatives earlier this month voted for the 33rd time to repeal President Barack Obama’s health-care plan.
Going into the vote, there was absolutely no question as to the result and its utter futility. The Republicans voted for repeal, as they do every time, and the Democrats (with the exception of the five who voted against the bill when it passed in the first place) voted against. The repeal effort will then go nowhere in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Even if it did, it would be vetoed by Obama.
Do it once, and you make a point. Do it twice, and you reaffirm that point. Debate it for the 33rd time, and you are wasting the time and money of the people you’re supposed to be representing.
Like so much in Washington these days, the exercise in the House had absolutely nothing to do with what the House is supposed to do, which is legislate. It was pure political theater at its worst. Running a movie that we’ve already seen 32 times is beyond boring. It’s offensive.
Now, everyone understands that the health-care bill will be an issue in the fall election. Fair enough. That is where the debate belongs. If Republicans end up controlling all three branches of government, no doubt they will repeal the bill. If they don’t, they won’t. If they want to go out and campaign and give 33 — or 330 — speeches about what’s wrong with the bill, that’s what campaigns are for.
But 33 useless debates and votes on the floor of the House? Enough is enough.
The Republicans’ excuse for the vote was the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the law as a tax. But Republicans have been calling this bill a tax since Day One. Mitt Romney himself called the similar penalty in the similar bill that he sponsored and signed in Massachusetts a tax. What you call it may matter in terms of constitutional analysis, but it doesn’t make a bit of difference in terms of the latest House vote. No one changed their vote based on the label put on the bill. Everyone knew going in that it didn’t matter.
Certainly, there is nothing unusual about proposing bills with no chance of passing in the House and Senate in order to draw attention to important issues. But 33 times goes beyond reason.
The 33rd time, it’s no longer about what’s right or wrong with the bill, but what’s right or wrong with the legislative process — and the ugly partisanship in Washington.
Three days before the House vote, the latest episode of The Newsroom, the new HBO series by Aaron Sorkin, featured a scene with a respected Republican member of Congress who lost his seat in an ugly primary because he co-sponsored a bill to help homeless vets: co-sponsored it with a Democrat. I wish that scene were the work of Sorkin’s legendary imagination. Sadly, it rang true.
The “congressman,” explaining why he had worked across the aisle, said that when he was first elected, he understood that he was sent to Washington to do the people’s business and not simply his party’s, to get things done and not simply to take to the floor to score debate points. When I first went to Washington, to work in the Senate, that’s what I thought, too. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a leading conservative, and Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., a liberal lion, prided themselves on their friendship and their ability to work together on bills that would help people regardless of party.
No permanent enemies, no permanent friends, we used to say. Debate during the day, and then have a drink after the vote.
No more. And guess who loses? Not the proponents of health care or the opponents, but We the People who sent them there.
— Best-selling author Susan Estrich is the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her.
on 07.15.12 @ 07:14 PM
The majority of Americans are opposed to the ACA. The congress is doing its job representing the majority. It is a shame and a crime that the senate has decided to uphold a badly written law, one many of its members failed to full comprehend before signing it, on purely ideological and partisan grounds.
Yes the election this fall will make this abomination crystal clear. And those of you who bet your political careers on this will pay.
on 07.16.12 @ 08:32 AM
1. After the ruling on NFIB v. Sibelius (The ACA case) popular support has increased quite a bit, but you’re right, the majority still opposes it, however. . .
1. Wouldn’t repealing it 32 other times give the American people a pretty good idea on how they feel about it? Look at slide 12 here: http://www.kff.org/kaiserpolls/upload/8329-C.PDF Does that look like a majority of the American people want the GOP to keep repealing and repealing this?
3. Actually, the ACA hasn’t affected polls that much.
on 07.16.12 @ 06:02 PM
In an earlier post , Professor Know It All (aka An50)tried to make some halfwitted distinction between greed & profit in arguing to maintain the status quo of private healthcare insurance. Here are some cold hard facts and numbers to show the greedy, immoral, indefensible results of a system that the Professor types prefer to maintain.
on 07.17.12 @ 03:07 PM
Willie your lack of comprehension is exactly why greed will always prevail. You mistakenly believe income after expenses, profit, is greed, a human behavior that is the lust for more than you need. That is why greed exists and flourishes under the cover of such ardent opponents to private capital ownership and the profit motive as unions and left wing organizations. If you cannot tell the difference between these two terms then you will forever be a part of greed’s growth and destruction.
I have no doubt that the CEO’s mentioned in the article you posted are making way more than they need or even earn. But just like unions who love to collectively bargain and often use coercion to get more than the need these guys are doing the same. The difference is they are not holding anyone hostage and the company owners whether public or private have the last say in compensation. If you owned an insurance company would you want some dolt telling you how much you can compensate your executives for? If the market you operate your company in supports the salaries you pay then what’s the beef?
Ah, now we get to the real problem with private insurance. It is so damned overly controlled by restrictions and interstate trade laws that many companies operate with a near a monopoly on markets. This is not the fault of the companies but of government regulators always trying to fiddle with the free market. Take those restrictions away and the margins drop considerably due to competition. That results in far lower compensation packages and lower prices for you and me.
Of course you can keep your head in the sand and confuse terms like greed, a human behavior, with profit an economic principle and allow greed to flourish right under your nose. Or you can pull your head out and realize that unions are greedy, governments are greedy and anywhere selfish, lustful humans exist, the lust for more and more will exist too.
on 07.17.12 @ 05:53 PM
See this is where half-wit applies to your lack of common sense - you say “If the market you operate your company in supports the salaries you pay then what’s the beef?”
Ummm.. are you so indoctrinated that you cant even recognize health care insurance as being in crisis mode for millions of average Americans. You are truly a lost cause.
on 07.18.12 @ 10:55 AM
Willie it’s obvious that no one is going to get through that thick skull of yours. If you are too lazy or afraid to look up the meaning of words before you confuse them, there is nothing I can do about it. Like I said and it really applies across the board in both private and public institutions, many CEO’s are way over compensated.
But Willie in a market where government cronies haven’t rigged it, we consumers have all the power to change that with our wallets. You can scream all you want about excessive executive pay for insurance company CEO’s but you still buy their damned product thus giving those salaries tacit approval. Until our fascist dictator takes the power of consumer choice away from us by mandating everyone buy health insurance you can still say no to bloated CEO salaries by not buying insurance.
Image the panic in board rooms across the country if millions of premium payers said “screw you we quit”. Imagine how quickly those compensation packages would go down if shareholders began investigating the far to cozy relationship between executives and board members.
We have the power but have been convinced that we cannot use it. We live in fear of sickness and death, while the legalized protection racket continues to ream us and your answer is to hand that racket over to the government? My God man we can’t control those AH’s any better, in fact they are far worse. Use the power you have, but to do so you must first deal with your fears.
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