US House Republicans and those ObamaCare votes

capitolAll of us have heard the spin plenty of times from our “favorite” GOP member of the US House. Republicans have voted 30 — no, 40 — make that, 50 times — to repeal ObamaCare. Usually it’s from a Republican member trying to defend himself or herself from not going along with efforts led by Mark Meadows and Ted Cruz to defund ObamaCare. Democrats have thrown around the 30, 40,50 times spin to paint the GOP as obstructionist. 

Byron York of The Washington Examiner offers some clarification on that spin: 

It has become a truism that House Republicans have voted dozens and dozens of times — at least 50 in all — to repeal Obamacare. “They have been obsessed with repealing the Affordable Care Act,” President Obama told a Democratic National Committee meeting in Washington last month. “You know what they say: 50th time is the charm. Maybe when you hit your 50th repeal vote, you will win a prize. Maybe if you buy 50 repeal votes, you get one free. We get it.”

For more than a year, Democrats and their advocates in the press have been ridiculing the GOP’s anti-Obamacare efforts. “The House Republicans have voted more than 30 times to repeal Obamacare,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in March 2013. “The House has wasted weeks voting more than 40 times to repeal Obamacare,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in October of last year. “If at first you don’t succeed, try 50 times — Republicans [are] holding a 50th vote to repeal Obamacare,” MSNBC’s Al Sharpton said last week. Many others have said similar things.

The only problem is, the truism isn’t true. The House has actually voted to repeal Obamacare in its entirety six times. Certainly Democrats think that is six too many. But it is not 50, or even close to 50. The rest of the votes — there have actually been 54 so far — were votes that ranged from defunding measures that would have crippled Obamacare to delaying measures that would have put off some of the very same provisions in the law that President Obama has delayed unilaterally, to measures fixing portions of the law that passed both houses of Congress with bipartisan support and were signed by the president.

The basic story is that House Republicans have voted for repeal at a few key moments since Obamacare was signed into law, and also as part of the yearly budget process. “It’s six times if you count the budget,” says one House GOP source in an email. “First time was when we first took the House majority, once after the Supreme Court decision, and once this Congress. And then the budget ever year.”

In addition, eight of the times Republicans have voted to “repeal” Obamacare have been instances in which Congress passed, and President Obama signed, for example, measures to repeal the 1099 tax reporting requirement; repeal the CLASS Act; reduce funding in the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which many lawmakers viewed as excessive; and other issues.

Of the other 40 or so anti-Obamacare measures passed by House Republicans, some were clearly efforts to gut the law while not actually repealing it. For example, in 2011 a measure known as the Rehberg Amendment, after former Rep. Denny Rehberg, would have “prohibited funding for any employee, officer, contractor or grantee of any department or agency funded under Labor & HHS to implement the health care provisions of Obamacare.” Other measures would have forbidden funding for implementing the Obamacare exchanges, or for implementing the Independent Payment Advisory Board. Other measures would have repealed IPAB altogether. Or prevented the Internal Revenue Service from enforcing the law.

Still other House measures would have delayed the implementation of all of Obamacare by a year, or delayed the individual mandate by the same time. Others targeted the medical device tax. And still others went after more arcane areas of the law, like the provision for School Based Health Centers.

Some of the House measures now portrayed as votes to “repeal” Obamacare were actually entirely consistent with President Obama’s wishes. For example, in July 2013, the House passed a bill to delay the implementation of the Obamacare employer mandate by one year. Of course, Obama himself had done the same thing by executive authority a short time before, and the House was trying to give the move a measure of congressional approval. Obama threatened to veto the measure, and it died in the Senate.

The bottom line is that Republicans have not voted to repeal Obamacare 30, or 40, or 50 times. Yes, they have kept up a steady stream of efforts to limit the law’s reach and delay its implementation. And yes, Democrats opposed all of them, except when they didn’t and allowed GOP-supported Obamacare changes to become law. And now, of course, the president is using his unilateral power to delay more and more parts of the law in a way that is consistent with some of the rejected GOP measures.[…]