House Republicans are set to vote down President Obama’s healthcare law for the thirty-third time, although it is the first repeal vote since the Supreme Court upheld most of the law as constitutional.
The GOP’s constant reiteration of its opposition to the president’s largest domestic achievement has reduced legislating to message discipline—and the political class continues to debate the wisdom of this strategy.
But whether or not this is “smart political theater,” the Republicans’ eagerness to clog Congress with symbolic votes is a sharp contrast to all the jobs legislation that they have bottled up. Remember when President Obama pushed hard for a massive jobs and stimulus plan, the American Jobs Act, which would inject over $400 billion into the economy? The program was even “tilted heavily toward the Republican prescription of tax cuts,” as Bloomberg reported, in order to draw support. The president went all out for the plan in an address to a joint session of Congress. A majority even backed the Jobs Act in the Senate, but Republicans filibustered, and in the House, they never even scheduled a floor vote for the bill:
In fact, as the above chart explains, Republicans sent Obama’s jobs proposals to eleven different committees but never bothered to vote on it. The bill’s history on the Library of Congress website reads like a sad series of hand-me-downs.
Other jobs bills, like Representative Rosa DeLauro’s Layoff Prevention Act, which would simply tweak the tax code so that employers had more flexibility to cut workers’ hours instead of terminating them—and only within selected “short-time compensation programs”—have never gotten a committee vote. Nevermind the floor debate. These are the kind of jobs measures that Congress should be debating, not the optics of deliberate redundancy.
But still, asking whether Republicans look good by attacking healthcare again is the wrong question. By stoking another healthcare debate, even for a failed vote after a court loss, they are distracting people from the relentless GOP obstruction on economic recovery. And if there’s no jobs plan, of course, it’s easier for their nominee to keep asking where the jobs are.