Republicans in Congress have wasted no time in establishing their lead battle of the new year: repealing Obamacare. House Speaker Paul Ryan calls it his “first priority of 2016,” and the Senate promises a bill repealing the health law will hit President Barack Obama’s desk no later than Tuesday.
For now, the GOP’s threat is purely symbolic. Obama will undoubtedly veto any move to quash his landmark health care law. But, with an election on the horizon, this may be the point. This is the first time that a bill seeking to repeal Obamacare will actually reach the White House — and, for conservative members of Congress, the fact that a bill will make it that far is a success.
“You’re going to see us put a bill on the president’s desk going after Obamacare and Planned Parenthood so we’ll finally get a bill on his desk to veto,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan in a December 22 interview.
This action could easily draw voter interest in Obamacare alternatives and spark new debate among GOP presidential candidates — all of whom promise to repeal Obamacare if elected. But despite the admission that his party is knowingly pushing a bill to its death, Ryan said the move is actually part of a bigger goal to put Congress back in operational order.
“You’ll see a return to regular order, where men and women in Congress can bring their bills to the floor, make their amendments in order, and we will run Congress the way the founders intended it to be run.”
Anticipating Obama’s move, conservatives are prepared to schedule a veto override vote on January 22 — even though they don’t have enough votes in Congress to see it through. However, this is likely another strategic, albeit static, move by GOP legislators. The scheduled override vote falls on the same day as March for Life, the yearly anti-abortion rally that brings tens of thousands of protesters to Washington, D.C.
GOP lawmakers are likely hoping that will only increase the interest in the GOP’s drive to drop Obamacare, since the legislation seeking to roll back the health law would also cut all federal funding for Planned Parenthood — a policy that abortion opponents have demanded for months. Legislators have attempted to time conservative health reform action to coincide with this annual march in the past, with little success.
“We were sent to Congress to fight for the American people. They do not want their health care dictated to them by Washington. And they don’t want their tax dollars going to abortion providers,” said Rep. Vicky Hartzler in a weekend video address. She did not, however, suggest a solution.
With a focus on symbolic political action, GOP representatives have yet to present a comprehensive health plan to replace Obamacare — despite stating that the goal of this January kick-off is to “repeal and replace.” In fact, though Congress has voted 60 times to either fully or partially repeal Obamacare, it has never voted to replace it with alternative legislation.