For the 37th time since 2011, House Republicans will hold a vote to repeal Obamacare on Thursday, bringing the total cost of all of their failed repeal votes to roughly $55 million in taxpayer money, according to one estimate.
Last year, CBS News calculated that the number of hours spent on 33 repeal votes — then roughly 80 hours, or two full work weeks — cost taxpayers an estimated $48 million. Since then, Republicans have held three more votes (another $4.5 million) and will add another $1.5 million with their latest.
At a time when lawmakers have implemented $85 billion in across-the-board cuts on top of $1.5 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade, no dollar can be spared. And the country has serious health-related needs that could use funding. Here are some better health care uses for the more than $50 million these symbolic votes against the Affordable Care Act have wasted:
1. Restore cuts from sequestration to Title X family planning programs and Title V maternal and child health services. The National Women’s Law Center calculates that a 5 percent cut to the budgets of each program will reduce them by $15 million and $32.5 million, respectively. Rather than voting to repeal a bill that expands women’s access to preventative services, the House could use the money to expand them.
2. Double the Department of Justice’s budget for sexual assault services, which has currently been authorized a $50 million budget. The program gives money to states so that they can support rape crisis centers and other nongovernmental organizations that provide direct intervention, core services, and other assistance to the victims of sexual assault. Current funding is inadequate, as some states receive less than $300,000 and many programs lack the resources to meet victims’ needs.
3. Grant a request for $50 million to train 5,000 new mental health professionals as part of a new initiative to expand mental health treatment and prevention services. This proposal came in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting to address gaps in the mental health system.
4. Help states implement paid leave policies. President Obama included a $50 million State Paid Leave Fund in his 2011 budget to provide start-up support for states that want to enact paid leave for workers. More than 40 percent of workers don’t have access to paid sick leave, heading to work when they or their family members experience an illness, but this funding could help give them a better option.
The current Congress is on track to be the most unproductive since the 1940s, but still has time to hold votes that won’t result in actual legislative change. There are many other priorities lawmakers could focus on instead and better ways to spend taxpayer dollars.