What Today's House Vote to Defund Obamacare Does: Nothing

The resolution would fund the government through December 15, but the Senate is certain to reject the attack on the Affordable Care Act.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Zip. Zilch. Zero.

That's what will come of the 230-189 vote in the House of Representatives today, which passed a continuing resolution that funds the government through December 15 while striking all funding for Obamacare. (One Republican voted against, while two Democrats voted for; the vote was otherwise along party lines.)

The resolution now goes to the Senate, where the Democrats who control the chamber will surely kill the Obamacare provision; if they don't, President Obama has promised to veto it. Then they'll send it back to the House, which will have to vote on whether or not they accept the funding resolution that reinstates money for the health-care law. If the two sides don't reach a deal by October 1, the government will shut down, and there appears to be little or no progress in negotiations.

The Republican hope is that at the very least, the Senate vote forces vulnerable Democrats to take a stand on Obamacare. A post-vote House Republican press conference was mostly a litany of names of red-state Democratic senators up for reelection. But of course those Democrats have already voted for Obamacare once before, so there's little incentive for them to turn against it now.

What really seems to be happening is a major fissure between House Republicans and Senate Republicans. The House GOP was pushed to defund Obamacare by Senator Ted Cruz and a small group of like-minded senators, but in the last few days, that team has seemed to go soft, saying they wouldn't filibuster to defund. This has enraged the House Republicans. Representative Sean Duffy of Wisconsin accused the senators of "waving the white flag," saying, "What I see happening now is people coming out now and calling them out for the hypocrisy of these big tough conservatives who know how to fight, but will never get in the ring.” 

If all else fails, Republicans hope they can position themselves to profit politically from a shutdown. They reason that Obamacare is unpopular, and shutdown is unpopular, so they've passed a bill that solves both problems: It defunds Obamacare and funds the government. Yet as Molly Ball explained earlier this week, history and polling data both suggest that's a pipe dream.

So where do things stand now? The country is still squarely on the road to a government shutdown, just like it was yesterday.

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David A. Graham is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers political and global news. He previously reported for Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and The National.

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