Understanding the House Vote to Repeal Health Care Reform

Does it matter?

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On Wednesday, the House approved a measure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as President Obama's health care reform plan. The vote was largely read as symbolic, as it is extremely unlikely to gain 60 votes in the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he will not bring it for a vote. Even if it did make it through a Senate vote, President Obama would be sure to veto it. So does this matter, then? And if so, how and why?

  • Repeal Is Popular (Sort of)  "People do want to repeal health reform," The Atlantic's Chris Good explains, "... when given only two options: repeal it or leave it the same. At least that's what some major polls tell us." He cites polls by Gallup and Opinion Research, which show a small majority prefer "repeal" to keeping it the same. However, "When poll respondents are given a broader range of options, the picture is a little different. Some pollsters have asked whether people want to repeal the law; change it so that it does less; keep it; or change it so that it does more." In this case, only about a quarter want repeal.
  • Big Challenge Will Be Agreeing on Alternative Plan  The New York Times' David Herszenhorn and Robert Pear write that "the next steps will be much more difficult, as [those opposing Obama's health care reform] try to forge consensus on alternatives emphasizing 'free market solutions' to control health costs and expand coverage. ... Republicans said their package would probably include proposals to allow sales of health insurance across state lines; to help small businesses band together and buy insurance; to limit damages in medical malpractice suits; and to promote the use of health savings accounts, in combination with high-deductible insurance policies."
  • No GOP Interest in Building Plan  The Washington Post's Ezra Klein fumes that Republicans "ducked the hard work and highest responsibilities of governance." He writes, "isn't the first time health-care policy has come up in Washington. If the GOP had wanted to offer a plan of their own, there are plenty they could've taken off the shelf. If they'd needed more time, well, there was no hurry. But they didn't take more time, or dust off an existing piece of legislation. Backwards was good enough."
  • After Symbolic Vote, 'Real Work Begins'  Former Bush speechwriter David Frum writes, "Okay, so we got that out of our system. Fine. Now, some serious work. As I see it, Republicans have 2 most urgent concerns with the healthcare bill." He cites "the tax mechanism" and "the added Medicaid burden on states." Republicans should move on from symbolic acts, he says, and try to really solve these problems.
  • Futility of Repeal Effort is Good News for GOP  Think Progress' Matthew Yglesias explains, "The Affordable Care Act has, after all, a fair amount of interest group support. I bet hospitals in Cantor’s district don’t want to see it repealed. Nor do pharmaceutical companies. After all, one man’s patient is another man’s customer. But since repeal is just playacting for Fox News watchers, none of these groups are actually going to be pissed at Cantor or other pro-repeal House members."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.