Those who did speak didn’t necessarily do it well. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, gave a passionate speech in support of . . . his home state. “Texans are a proud people, and we’ve been a proud people since the days of the Alamo and San Jacinto,” he said. “If Texas were its own country, it would have the 13th highest GDP in the world.” Replied McGovern: “Wonderful commercial for Texas. We all should visit.”
As the debate progressed, Republicans managed to scare up more speakers. But they didn’t pretend that they were doing anything more than going through the motions. They were doing repeal once more, without feeling.
Opponents of the health-care law voiced the obligatory lines Tuesday calling it a “train wreck” and all the rest. But the expansion of health coverage under the law, lower health-care inflation, and the booming economy made it difficult to make the case that the law has been a disaster. The energy had flipped from the 2010 debates, and proponents had the passion. “They’re baaaaaaying at the moon, 56th time,” said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, baying herself.
During the election, GOP leaders downplayed Obamacare repeal as a priority, because they knew they’d have no chance of overcoming President Obama’s veto. But since then they decided to make a repeal vote one of their first orders of business, because freshmen legislators wanted to say that they, too, voted for repeal.
Omitted from the debate was any hint of what Republicans would do to replace Obamacare. To finesse this, the repeal legislation included a bold provision calling for a trio of committees to come up with recommendations.
Strange start for majority
The Republicans’ ennui in the Obamacare debate continued a strange start for the new majority. In the House, the Republican leadership abandoned abortion and immigration legislation because of intra-party discord; in the Senate, the GOP majority struggled to pass legislation authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline and, on Tuesday, failed to advance its proposal to challenge Obama’s immigration executive orders.
In contrast to the fire they breathed on Obamacare in 2010, this time the law’s foes wheezed banalities. “If you ask why we’re voting to repeal this law again, we’re doing it for the people,” Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy explained in a sing-song speech.
Democrats answered all this with derision. From the White House, Obama said: “I don’t know if it’s the 55th or the 60th time that they are taking this vote, but why is it this would be at the top of their agenda?”
Said McGovern: “Fifty-six: Let’s see, that’s two score and 16. It’s 4.5 dozen. But no matter how you add it up, it has to be some sort of world record in political futility.”
In the end, the House voted to repeal the law, sending the measure to the Senate, where Ted Cruz, R-Texas, had introduced a similar bill on Monday.