Let Debate Over Health Care Law Commence

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House Republicans will vote to repeal the health care law Wednesday--a vote widely expected to go nowhere, because the Senate won't pass repeal, and if it did, President Obama would repeal it. But is the vote more than symbolic? It certainly won't be the last we hear of the health care debate, The New York Times' David M. Herszenhorn and Robert Pear report. Not by a long shot. Lawmakers will be fighting for the next two years over the government's proper role in the health care system, and so will 2012's presidential candidates.

The House began debating repeal Tuesday. Republicans argue that the Congressional Budget Office is underestimating the future cost of the law. Democrats say the CBO might be overestimating the price tag, because the law is meant to improve the delivery of care and thus slow the growth of its expense. Another major point of contention is whether the law will create or destroy jobs.

If the repeal's failure is a foregone conclusion, what should we watch for in the debate?

  • Has the Repeal Debate Changed Any Minds Yet? The Washington Post's Ezra Klein asks. Answer: nope.
If anything, it seems the two sides are more locked into their original positions than they were a few months ago, not less. Which means though no one will decisively win today, neither will anyone admit defeat. The two parties are going to grind this one out over the course of months, or even years. Regulators will be hauled before committees by Republicans who don't want the bill implemented. Funding will be zeroed out. Legislation reforming the shortcomings that both sides see in the bill, or doubling down on the strengths both sides see in the bill, isn't likely to get very far. There's simply no consensus in favor of implementation, repeal, or revision. And there's certainly no talk of a compromise.
  • Five Key Votes to Watch, The Washington Post's Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza report. Sure, the vote is symbolic, but "there will be a certain amount of intrigue when the votes come in today -- both because Democrats have been trying to turn the issue against Republicans and because there are 13 Democrats left in Congress who voted against the bill in the first place. As it turns out, most of those 13 Democrats are expected to oppose repeal after all. But for those members and a few Republicans, the vote could give them some pause." Key lawmakers are: Tim Holden (D-Pa), Ben Chandler (D-Ky), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), Sean Duffy (R-Wis), Richard Hanna (R-NY).
  • This Vote Matters, The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin insists. Senators who oppose the law will find some way to force votes. "In sum, the House will vote to repeal ObamaCare. Red state senators will be forced to vote again and again on the deeply flawed legislation. And then the public will be shown just how flawed it is. No wonder Democrats don't relish 'relitigating' ObamaCare."
  • The GOP Should Have Its Own Proposal, Outside the Beltway's Steven L. Taylor argues.
Use the power of the House to go beyond basic symbolism to actual action, even if it is action that will die once it leaves the chamber. If governing is the actual goal here, rather than winning elections, then the Republican Party desperately needs to get away from 'broad..goals, but no specifics' to making real presentations. ... At the moment it appears to me that the Republicans are subsisting on vague fantasies rather than actually taking up the hard work of governing, which requires concrete proposals and a long-term strategy to attempt to implement them.
  • The CBO Is Wrong, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Joseph Antos, and James C. Capretta write in The Wall Street Journal. The bill is "all about budget gimmicks, deceptive accounting, and implausible assumptions used to create the false impression of fiscal discipline. ... The history of federal entitlements is one of inexorable growth. Once erected, more and more people get added to the programs. The ACA will be no different. Spending will soar, and the tax hikes and spending 'offsets' that were cobbled together to get the bill passed will either wither away or vanish altogether. Repeal isn't a budget buster; keeping the ACA is. Assertions to the contrary are, well, audacious."
  • Sheila Jackson Lee Says Repeal Is Unconstitutional, Hot Air's Allahpundit notes. "I can't decide whether she's serious or whether this is part of the Democrats' new kitchen-sink approach to 'messaging' about ObamaCare. She might be calculating that even an argument as inane as this one is worth making in order to counter the GOP’s claims that O-Care is unconstitutional. If you're battling over public opinion, why not frame the other side’s actions as being as illegitimate as your own?"
  • And What if Courts Say the Law Is Unconstitutional? The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn wonders.
The best case scenario, at least for those of us who support the Affordable Care Act, is that the government finds another way to impose the mandate or enact a modification that achieves close to the same ends. ... On the left, some have wondered whether this might finally create a groundswell for single-payer–style health insurance—which, like Medicare, would clearly fall under the government’s taxing power and therefore be constitutionally invulnerable. That’s possible. But it’s just as possible that the country would simply give up on universal health care, at least for now, effectively deciding that guaranteeing affordable access to medical care was something the United States, alone among developed countries, could not do."
  • Repeal Will Be Costly on Election Day, Slate's Timothy Noah writes. If it passes, "I see one-half of a nation getting screwed one way or another simply because it enjoys less than perfect health. Obamacare will make this group's lives substantially better starting in 2014. Maybe not all these 129 million voted in the 2010 election. Maybe some of them are even Republicans. But if the GOP succeeds in denying them health reform this year, I would guess that they'll probably vote in 2012."

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