By Russell Berman and Bernie Becker - 06/30/12 10:00 AM EDT
House Republicans in tight races this fall say they are on board with the leadership’s plan to hold a repeat vote to repeal the 2010 healthcare law, even though they acknowledge it won’t go anywhere in the Senate.
In an election season when every floor vote is scrutinized for its political impact, the decision by the leadership to forge ahead – with the encouragement of its most vulnerable members – underscores how confident the GOP is that the law remains unpopular with the public.
The House GOP already voted to repeal President Obama’s healthcare overhaul as one of its first acts in 2011. But in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the law, party leaders plan to do so again on July 11.
“Obviously we all understand that it’s a statement of principle and it doesn’t have any chance in the Senate, but I think it’s appropriate,” Rep. Charlie Bass (R-N.H.) said Friday.
“I think it’s important that the majority in Congress make its position known in light of what the Supreme Court did.”
Hoping the high court would strike down at least part of the law, GOP leaders had pledged to try to immediately repeal whatever was left of it.
But with the decision to let it stand virtually in its entirety, a repeal vote is redundant.
As Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) put it on Thursday, “we’ve already passed repeal 16 ways to Sunday.”
A spokeswoman for Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said the House has voted to dismantle, defund or repeal the healthcare law 30 times in the 112th Congress.
Emerson, who has a centrist reputation, said that getting rid of the healthcare overhaul was popular across party lines in her rural district.
“Across the board, among Democrats and Republicans – they hate it. And so they want to get rid of it,” Emerson said. “It is in my district, seriously, a nonpartisan issue.”
Rep. Pete Sessions (Texas), the chairman of the House Republicans’ campaign arm, told reporters Friday that he supported the July 11 vote, and that GOP leaders would discuss whether further floor action would be needed.
But Sessions also suggested that repeal votes wouldn’t exactly be a regular occurrence in the months leading up to the election.
“We’ve got a dwindling number of days we’re going to be here,” the Texas Republican said. “I think that people understand what that is.”
Democrats say the repeal move is a waste of time and bolsters their contention that the House GOP majority has few ideas to help create jobs and improve the economy.
“It’s a little bit like Groundhog Day,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said. “It’s every day, some way in which they’re trying to repeal the healthcare bill.”
The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), issued a statement after the Supreme Court ruling saying Republicans should “move on.”
"Republicans have wasted the last 18 months on a misguided, partisan crusade to put insurance companies back in charge of health care, instead of getting the economy back on track and strengthening the middle class,” Israel said.
Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) said the GOP had argued consistently that the healthcare law hamstrings businesses and that the repeal push was “completely connected to jobs and the economy.”
Other Republicans said a second repeal vote was justified by the high court’s holding that the individual mandate at the center of the healthcare law was a tax – contradicting the longstanding political position of the Obama administration and congressional Democrats.
“This is a huge tax increase. It was not sold that way, so they misled the American public when they said it wasn’t a tax increase,” said Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), who is challenging Sen. Jon Tester (D) in a critical Senate race.
“So it is a good use of our time. I think any way we can stand with the American people against this huge tax increase we ought to do.”
Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.), whose re-election race is considered a toss-up, said the tax ruling changed the political equation.
“Now you’re going to put people on record saying they want to go ahead and tax the American people,” he said, “because when you voted the last time, it didn’t have the tax. It was a mandate. Now it’s confirmed that it’s a tax.”