If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, House Republicans are indeed certifiable. Wednesday will be the 31st time they have tried, and failed, to repeal all or part of President Obama's signature health care law. But in an arena that rewards repetitive messaging, the laws of sanity don't hold. So if Republicans are crazy, they are crazy like a fox.
All of Washington is greeting Wednesday's repeal vote with a collective yawn--a blasé been there, done that. The conventional wisdom is that it won't move public opinion that has been solidly split for almost three years and that the issue will be overshadowed in the presidential race by the economy. But that misses the point. The repeal vote is not a national political play, it's a local one.
Republicans see about a dozen vulnerable Democratic seats where a vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act could help GOP challengers. Nationally, the polling may be split, but independents tend to oppose the law, which is especially important in swing districts. So although repeal votes fire up the GOP base, they also remind independents that Republicans are working to rid the country of the law.
"This was something that was always going to happen as long as the Supreme Court was going to leave intact any part of Obamacare. The House was going to vote to repeal all of Obamacare," a senior House Republican leadership aide said. "The consistent polling speaks to why House Republicans have continued the repeal fight. This is not just a political-base play."
Four Democrats--Reps. Mike McIntyre and Larry Kissell of North Carolina, who are locked in tough reelection fights, and retiring Reps. Dan Boren of Oklahoma and Mike Ross of Arkansas--sided with Republicans on Tuesday to begin debating the bill.
Republicans pointed to the defections as proof that their strategy is working."This is not a great issue for a lot of their guys. Things like that don't happen out of the blue," National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Paul Lindsay said, referring to the Democrats crossing the aisle.
The repeal votes, all 31 of them, give Republicans the ammunition to run ads in swing districts where the law is unpopular telling voters that their Democratic legislators supported Obamacare.
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