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The House Rules Committee takes up a bill today called the Repeal of Obamacare Act. And just like it says, the bill would wipe away the president's health care initiative, the Affordable Care Act. A vote of the full House is planned for Wednesday. It's the first legislative response from House Republicans since the Supreme Court upheld the law. But as NPR's Tamara Keith reports, this has been tried before.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Thirty: That's how many times the House has taken floor votes to repeal, defund or dismantle the health care law over the past 18 months.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: H.R. 2, a bill to repeal the job-killing health care law and...
KEITH: Yes, that was the official bill title. The first repeal vote on H.R. 2 came January 19th, 2011, just two weeks after the GOP took control of the House. Mike Pence is an Indiana Republican.
REPRESENTATIVE MIKE PENCE: And today, House Republicans are going to stand with the American people and vote to repeal their government takeover of health care lock, stock and barrel.
KEITH: And that's exactly what House Republicans did, all 242 of them. They were joined by just three Democrats. And then the bill went nowhere. Actually, it went to languish in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Sarah Binder is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an expert in legislative gridlock.
SARAH BINDER: Even in some bizarre universe where the Senate passed it, President Obama wouldn't sign it into law.
KEITH: Or in other words: These efforts are legislatively hopeless, but not necessarily pointless. Binder says votes like the one planned for later this week are all about scoring political points.
BINDER: Much of what we see during split-party control of Congress is this message politics, which is the parties taking their chamber and using it to pursue a policy agenda that appeals to their party base.
REPRESENTATIVE RODNEY ALEXANDER: I think we can agree that this is a vote that the American public has called for and a vote that we owe the American public.
KEITH: That's Louisiana Republican Rodney Alexander, speaking in favor of his effort back in April of 2011 to pull funding from the health care law.
ALEXANDER: To prohibit any funds in this act or any previous act from being used to implement...
KEITH: It passed the House on an almost purely partisan vote with criticism from Democrats like Connecticut Representative Rosa DeLauro.
REPRESENTATIVE ROSA DELAURO: Mr. Speaker, instead of working to create jobs, reduce the deficit and do the business of the American people, this majority has been consumed for months now with trying to repeal health care reform.
KEITH: The measure failed in the Senate. Defunding and repeal efforts large and small have been tucked into everything from defense appropriations to student loans. A handful of smaller items have made it all the way through to a presidential signature. But most have failed or stalled in the Senate. So why try again? Why a 31st vote for repeal? House Speaker John Boehner appeared July 1st on CBS's "Face the Nation."
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FACE THE NATION")
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER: We want to show people we are resolved to get rid of this.
KEITH: Boehner said the law needs to be ripped out by its roots, and then later replaced.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW)
BOEHNER: And while the court upheld it as constitutional, they certainly didn't say that it was a good law.
KEITH: The only real chance for Boehner and his Republican colleagues to get their way lies with the November election, and possibly an arcane budget procedure known as reconciliation. Here's how it would work: Mitt Romney would have to win the presidency. Republicans would have to maintain control of the House and also win the Senate. When it comes to the Senate, it's virtually impossible for Republicans to get the 60-vote majority needed to overcome a filibuster. And that's where reconciliation comes in. Certain budget bills can go around the filibuster and only need 51 votes to pass. But Sarah Binder at Brookings says it would be procedurally challenging.
BINDER: It's complicated for Republicans to achieve this, but there is a vehicle, if they can carefully calibrate their bill.
KEITH: That's a whole lot of ifs. And there are questions about if even that could repeal the whole law. One thing that's not in question, though, is the outcome of Wednesday's expected vote on the Repeal Obamacare Act. Like so many similar efforts in the past, it will pass the House, with overwhelming Republican support. Tamara Keith, NPR News, Washington.
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