In the Two Minute Drill, we explain complex issues in politics in 500 words or less (roughly the amount of words it takes the average adult two minutes to read on a monitor). Politics just isn’t always that complicated. Without the fluff and partisan bias, even the most complex of our political differences can be explained succinctly. This week: taking a look at Republicans quest to repeal Obamacare. This is The Two Minute Drill for February 6, 2015.
Republican Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), who represents a district that Mitt Romney won in 2012 by just 51 to 48 percent, last week lamented the issues House Republicans have decided to focus on since taking over Congress. Dent told reporters:
Week one, we had a Speaker election that didn’t’ go as well as a lot of us would have liked. Week two, we spent a lot of time talking about deporting children, a conversation a lot of us didn’t want to have. Week three, we’re debating reportable rape and incest – again, not an issue a lot of us wanted to have a conversation about. I just can’t wait for week four.”
So what about week four? In week four, Republicans decided to focus on (drum roll) repealing the Affordable Care Act (“ACA” or “Obamacare”). On Tuesday (February 3), Republicans voted – for the 67th time – to repeal the ACA. This vote, however, is different than the ones that came before it.
The Explanation (500 or Bust)
Republicans and Democrats couldn’t even agree on how many times the House has voted to repeal, defund, or dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Republican aides argued that the new vote brought the total to 67 (including eight votes for full repeal); Democrats said there had only been 56 votes to repeal or undermine the law. But who’s counting? The important point is that Republicans have been absolutely obsessed with dismantling the ACA since President Obama signed it into law on March 23, 2010.
These votes have all been largely symbolic. That’s not to say that Republicans don’t want to see Obamacare fully repealed; it’s just that Republicans realize that such a bill has zero chance of actually becoming law, particularly with Obama in the White House. Tuesday’s vote was purportedly cast in the same vein – it was meant to give freshman Republicans a crack at repealing the law and a talking point to deliver constituents. “We have 47 new members of Congress on the Republican side who have never had the chance to cast their vote to repeal Obamacare,” John Boehner told Fox News’ Bret Baier in an interview last week. Similarly, one GOP added: “We’re just getting it out of the way.”
But this repeal effort was, in many ways, very different than the votes that came before it. Tuesday’s action was more than just a symbolic gesture. This wasn’t just about checking a box.
Tuesday’s vote comes just months before the Supreme Court will issue an opinion in King v. Burwell, a legal challenge dealing with the ACA’s tax subsidies. But more importantly, it represents the first time Republicans have voted to actually take health coverage away from millions of Americans.
Republicans have been steadfast in their opposition to the ACA. But the last time the House voted to repeal the ACA in its entirety – rather than tweak small provisions – was May 16, 2013. That was months before the first enrollment period, and full implementation of the ACA was some time away. At the time, the vote could still be framed as being symbolic. This is not the case anymore.
According to the Congressional Budget Office (“CBO”), 19 million Americans who otherwise would not have health insurance now do because of the ACA. According to the CBO, that number is expected to increase to 27 million Americans by 2025. Votes have consequences. And by voting for full repeal of the ACA, Republicans voted to harm millions of Americans. More precisely: 19 million Americans.
Republicans have repeatedly promised (20 times, in fact) to offer a replacement for the ACA. But after nearly five years, no alternative has emerged. Though Tuesday’s vote included yet another pledge by Republicans to replace the ACA with “commonsense reforms,” it is a stark reminder that the only consensus Republican position on health reform is to dismantle the ACA and replace it with nothing.
Word Count: 479
The Five Best Things We’ve Read This Week
Here are the five most interesting articles we read this week:
- Vaccine Consensus. “Given the recent statements from a number of possible 2016 election contenders, you would think that vaccines are a widely divisive political issue. But according to data, they’re not.” From Time: Democrats and Republicans Mostly Agree about Vaccines, Research Shows. In case you’re interested, here is the underlying study.
- From Roald Dahl. “Olivia, my eldest daughter, caught measles when she was seven years old . . . The measles had turned into a terrible thing called measles encephalitis and there was nothing the doctors could do to save her. That was twenty-four years ago in 1962, but even now, if a child with measles happens to develop the same deadly reaction from measles as Olivia did, there would still be nothing the doctors could do to help her. On the other hand, there is today something that parents can do to make sure that this sort of tragedy does not happen to a child of theirs. They can insist that their child is immunised (sic) against measles.” That was written by Roald Dahl in 1988. It’s worth reading and remembering.
- Throw It Into Neutral. “I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC. These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services.” The FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler just came out strongly in favor of ensuring net neutrality.
- Slow Down. “There was no discernible benefit from either moderate or strenuous jogging, but there might have been a downside. While they couldn’t be statistically distinguished from sedentary people, moderate joggers died at about two-thirds the rate of non-joggers.” From Pacific Standard: Run Fast, Die Young?
- Drone On. “Normally, when you go to war, you go into a theater. You sleep in a tent every night and you walk half a mile to go to the bathroom. In the Predator world, you’re in Las Vegas. You get up in the morning, kiss the wife goodbye and drive up to the base. But when you get into the box, you’re right there in the theater. You’re at war. It’s incredibly strange.” From The Kernal: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Drone Pilot.
And in case you missed it, check out The Weekly Column. This past week took a look at the controversial (and false) claim that vaccines cause autism spectrum disorder. Read the Column for February 3, 2015 – Vaccines and Autism: A Failed Hypothesis.