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Column/Op-Ed, News, Politics, Social

Congressional Failure: How A Symbolic Vote Wasted Our Time and Money

For the 33rd time, the House has voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, known popularly as Obamacare. The bill passed 244 – 185, with every Republican and five Democrats voting against the repeal. The Democrats who voted are Dan Boren of Oklahoma, Larry Kissell and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, Jim Matheson of Utah, and Mike Ross of Arkansas. While McIntyre, Kissell, and Matheson are facing uphill battles in their conservative-leaning districts, Boren and Ross are retiring at the end of their terms.

It was an upsetting form of deja-vu, with Republicans making the same speeches about the government overstepping its bounds and taxing Americans heavily, especially during a struggling economic period, while the Democrats, still running victory laps since the Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act is legal as a Congressional right to tax, once again make the same speeches defending the new law.

Once again, it should be noted that this is the 33rd time Republicans voted on defunding or repealing some or all of the Affordable Care Act since January 2011, when Republicans took control of the house even though the Democratically-controlled Senate, the Executive branch of the government, and now the Supreme Courts have deemed this law to be a legitimate form of ensuring healh coverage for a majority of American citizens. Over the 33 times, Republicans had been able to alter parts of the bill, including credit for the defeat of the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s long term health care provision known as CLASS (Community Living Assistance Services and Support) Act, which would have allowed Americans to pay premiums towards later-in-life long term health care voluntarily. Is the law perfect? Absolutely not. In fact, some Democrats have said that the law does need refining in order to benefit Americans fully.

But today’s bill – to flat out repeal the law – was clearly a symbolic measure by angry Republicans still huffing and puffing over Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement of his first term. Despite comments made by Rep. Allen West of Florida, who said that the vote would not be symbolic, but a stance against taxation on Americans, It was an open threat to the Democrats that, should Mitt Romney defeat Barack Obama to win the Presidency, this health care law will be repealed almost as soon as Romney is sworn in. (Even thought in 2010, Romney praised Obamacare for being much like his own health care reform acts – dubbed “Romneycare” –  signed while Governor of Massachusetts in 2006. What a difference a few years and a shift to appeal to an ultraconservative voting bloc can be).

Even more so, it was a declaration of war on the campaign field. This move will certainly keep the health care debate, which Americans thought would be all but resolved, at a fever pitch, becoming a key component at future debates and speechs between both party candidates. In short, Republicans today declared, “It’s not over until the President on January 20th, 2013, makes the call”. And with Romney and Obama at a dead heat at 47%, the debate will be a fierce one. Although, Americans have been showing more and more support for Obama’s Affordable Care Act, where polls show a jump from 39% in April to 47% this month.

The core of the law at dispute is the individual mandate, where in 2014, nearly all Americans will be required to purchase health insurance or face a penalty come tax time. The law also provides provisions to keep health care affordable and easily accessable, from

It also should be noted that it costs $30,275,229 to keep Congress working for just one day. And as Republicans continue to make symbolic gestures to take down Obamacare – on the same day Mitt Romney was booed by a largely African-American audience at the NAACP convention – the question remains: What will it take for Republicans to agree on the Affordable Care Act. They have not formed a comprehensive reform act of their own. Even more tragic is that Congress has not voted on other far more critical bills that could help what many voters are concerned about most: the economy. A Layoff Prevention Act championed by Rep. Rosa DeLauro was never voted on, which would have allowed employers to cut worker hours instead of laying off Americans. The American Jobs Act, which would have funnelled $400 billion into jumpstarting the economy was filibustered into oblivion by the Senate and never saw a floor vote in the House.

$30,275,229 being spent on making partisan stances. A day. At what point will Congress – both Democrats and Republicans – realize that we cannot stop business as usual to turn Congress into a campaign warzone. At what point will Congress decide to move on other important issues. Americans are quick to point fingers, especially at President Obama, for not working on the economy. But legally, Obama has done all he could, with the American Jobs Acts. There is nothing more he can do but hit his head against the wall while Republicans ignore him and try to destroy his signature success. A plan that just a few years ago, Republicans themselves were desiring. It is a shame that does not look to be rectified anytime soon.

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About Richard L. Vargas

Among many things, I'm a writer, blogger, news junkie, and pop culture enthusiast from New York City.

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