House Republicans on Tuesday voted for the 56th time to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and Senate Democrats filibustered a GOP attempt to de-fund several of President Obama’s immigration policies through a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Wednesday brought the same DHS funding bill with the same anti-immigration amendments back up for a vote, only to have Democrats, who were joined both times by Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, filibuster it again.
Both bills are quixotic in one sense, given that Obama has threatened to veto any legislation that would undo either his health-care reform law or his executive order that protects up to five million immigrants from being deported and separated from their families.
The ACA repeal attempt certainly had its symbolic value for the 47 freshman House Republicans who hadn’t yet had the chance to go on record against health-care reform that has expanded access to almost ten million people through federal insurance exchanges.
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Congressional Republicans’ attempts to undo health-care reform come even as some GOP governors come around on the idea of expanding Medicaid under the ACA.
The repeated Democratic filibuster of the DHS funding bill doesn’t mean Republicans won’t keep trying to use it to attack the president’s immigration policy.
But both bills are also more than just symbolic political votes.
The vote to repeal the ACA comes at a time when the Supreme Court is about to hear arguments in a case that could rip Obamacare to shreds by revoking federal subsidies for people living in states that haven’t set up their own health insurance exchanges.
The legal evidence for the case has been falling apart under scrutiny, but many observers think that the Supreme Court might kill the subsidies if they don’t think the real-world consequences would be too dire. If Congressional Republicans had an alternate plan to bring down costs and expand coverage, for instance, that might ease the justices’ minds and encourage them to gut the ACA.
But as Greg Sargent notes in the Washington Post, “The repeal vote is a reminder that the only consensus GOP position on health reform is to blow up Obamacare and replace it with nothing.”
The lack of a replacement plan was also the reason three House Republicans gave for voting against the repeal bill. All three come from heavily Democratic districts and could face primary challenges in 2016.
Meanwhile, using the DHS funding bill to attack immigration reform could result in a partial government shutdown that would force thousands of national security employees to work without a paycheck. Congress only has about two more weeks in session to agree on a funding bill before the department runs out of money.
The anti-immigration amendments also put Republicans in the politically awkward position of refusing to fund national security in favor of pushing to deport hard-working young people who were brought to the United States as children.