Health Care Repeal Docketed: Why?

We’re one day from the opening of the new Congress, with its Republican-dominated lower House, and Boehner’s caucus has already docketed a January 12th vote on a resolution supporting the repeal of the President’s key healthcare reform bill. Don’t miss the official, campy title: “Instructing certain committees to report legislation replacing the job-killing health care law.” How many unrelated, unexplained negative descriptors can you fit into a title?

As Senate Democrats have pointed out, the repeal push could not possibly be more of a waste of time. Repeal would not net even a majority in the upper house, and even if it did, the President’s veto still remains. There’s something to be said for letting your constituents know where you stand, but Republicans have saturated the airwaves with endless lies about the reform act for months. Who could possibly benefit, or learn something, from the vote? Already, we’re facing political theater at its worst.

The repeal resolution’s text also manages to highlight the most painful irony of the entire health care debate: Republicans don’t even dislike the Act. They just think they do. Here, the House would direct committees to report out drafts to “repeal-and-replace,” provided the replacement bill would (among other goals),

(3) preserve a patient’s ability to keep his or her health plan if he or she likes it;

(4) provide people with pre-existing conditions access to affordable health coverage;

(9) expand incentives to encourage personal responsibility for health care coverage and costs;

(12) do not accelerate the insolvency of entitlement programs or increase the tax burden on Americans.

All of which, of course, is accomplished under the current Act.

I for one can’t wait to see the Republican drafts. Lord knows it’ll be the first time they’ve put policy on the table since early 2008: from the uninspired writing in this resolution, I guess the bill drafters are out of practice. In the meantime, the clock is ticking: once the American people, with gentle reminders from our side, notice the parts of the reform act already in place, repeal will die, and so will Republican support among seniors.



  1. Question: Since this site is essentially devoted to criticizing Republican ideas, does the coming GOP majority in the House seem like a Christmas present?

    The vote is a placeholder meant to get everyone on record. Not a big deal.

  2. What Republican ideas?

  3. I actually go back and forth on this. Sometimes I think you really believe that when you say it because you intentionally avoid learning anything about the Right. Other times I think you are just being smug. Which is it this time?

  4. I’m aware of and versed in conservative ideas. Some of them are quite interesting. I’m not aware of any that make it into the fold of becoming Republican ideas, except those defined exclusively in opposition to Democratic ideas. As far as I can tell, conservative political thought is a debating club with no outlet whatsoever, since the GOP’s been coopted by this sort of faux populism. Am I missing something?

  5. Have you never heard of Paul Ryan? Eric Cantor? Chris Christie? I’m just spitballing here but I know those three have all suggested policies and they are all politicians.

    1. Haven’t you made an argument before that, within the Republican Party, that they don’t necessarily need “ideas”?

      That as the “opposition party”, that they should be able to freely oppose what Democrats are doing, and not necessarily have a solution. Where after, you cite the Demcorat’s fight against Bush’s Social Security plan?

      1. You’re close. Conservatism should function as the governor switch on society. It’s our job to check liberal overreach. In that sense conservatism should at least in part be reactionary. We DO need ideas in the sense that someone needs to be thinking about what areas need our attention but we certainly have no obligation to push society forward.

        The analogy I always make is that liberals are like teen drivers. They are reckless and over-confident and want to get places in a hurry so they stomp the gas and cross their fingers. Conservatives are likely the grumpy old man who drives 45 mph on the freeway because he knows that bad stuff can happen and when he panics he parks the car on the side of the road. I would argue that a progressive conservatism (or a conservative liberalism if you prefer) should function like the middle age father of four. Drive at a sensible speed, keep everyone safe, but still make sure the family gets to Disney World on time.

      2. Haha, I totally began imagining that analogy with my conservative father figure in place: The first hurdle would be getting out of the house, because that change is nearly too much. Airports are out, because he dislikes other people on instinct, so several valid and practical solutions are ruled out, not based on practicality but anxiety.

        He would spend a lot of time yelling and threatening everyone on the road, because he thinks that guy behind him is purposefully out to get him. He’d probably use a racial epitaph or two and mumble about using his concealed handgun.

        If we ever got to Disney World, he would be unhappy and uncomfortable. Everything outside of his state he deems as useless, and not for him. So he’d hate Disney World and would want to go backwards as soon as possible.

        Oh no, father issues! ;)

  6. Cantor?! Hah!

    Christie is currently in a transitional phase, with the national party deciding what they want to make of him. And Ryan is a perfect example of what I’m saying. Ryan does a lot of the hard work of legislating, but it’s not clear what it’s gotten him, or whether his ideas are accepted by the party (example). Until that happens, his example proves rather than disproves my overriding thesis that the Republican Party isn’t interested in governing.

    1. The sad thing is how high you have to set the bar to maintain that thesis. The Daily Telegraph recenlty named Ryan the 9th most influential US conservative. He’s just been appointed chairman of the House Budget Committee. Cable news loves him and his name is regularly thrown around as a top 12 potential presidential candidate.

      I just don’t understand where you get his stuff Ames.

      1. Yes, well, House Budget sounds good, but the Appropriations Committee actually writes Appropriations legislation. Budget gets to produce the Annual, non-binding House Budget Resolution, which tells Approps how much money it should spend. That Resolution is generally honored in the breach, not the application. Nice try.

  7. So is this the one guy you’re going to hang your hat on? Him and?

    1. Is that a concession on my point?

  8. Re: Republican ideas, I did a couple of word searches in the Pledge to America, which I’m sure we can agree reflects the GOP’s current platform.

    Here’s a brief list of words which are entirely absent from that document:

    And just 1 hit for “China”, in the context of how much money they lend to you.

    So while the Republicans may have “ideas” in the strictest sense, they’re clearly not ones that actually address the real challenges to long-term growth for the United States.

    1. Are you suggesting that the American university system must be reformed in order to maintain ‘long term growth’?

    2. I am suggesting that investment in the development of new technologies will be absolutely crucial to creating growth and prosperity in the near future. And the absence of even any mention of that in the GOP’s primary policy paper is extremely troubling.

      Just as a point of reference, China is supposedly going to invest 1.5 trillion USD in R&D over the next five years. Meanwhile, if the GOP get their spending cuts through, it could reduce the US R&D budget by as much as 80 billion USD per year. Pretty much one of the worst ideas ever (or at least in the top 10).

      1. But I was asking about teachers and universities. Can’t grow without reforming them?

      2. I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at. I’m talking about funding for research and development projects. I have no idea if the American universities need reforming, they seem to work well enough as far as I can tell.

        I understand that your primary school system is in dire need of an overhaul, though.

        1. So then why did you search for these words in the document?


        2. Because they’re all part of the same sector, and scientific and technological development requires that the entire educational eco-system, as it were, is well-functioning and -funded. Those researchers have to come from somewhere, after all.

          1. But the Pledge to America was intended to be a reform document. You said the university system isn’t broke. Why would the GOP address any of those keywords if no reform isn’t necessary?

          2. Yeah, neither I nor the real world are interested in that sort of word-games. The PtA is a statement of what the GOP is going to do. Of their ideas, to return to the starting point.

            I’m just saying that in such a document, it’s remarkable that while one of their pledges is “…to advance policies that promote … national economic prosperity”, they completely ignore one of the main challenges to exactly that prosperity within the next 20 years or so.

            They could have put just one sentence in there: “We pledge to invest substantially in new and emerging technologies in order to keep America competitive in the future world economy.” But they did not – they have completely ignored this, and that tells me that they do not actually understand what the world is going to look like in just a few years.

            And again, the schools do need reform, and there’s absolutely nothing about that either.

            1. So universities don’t need reform but yet hey should be mentioned in a reform document. And primary schools DO need reform so they should be mentioned as well.


              The American university system is not hurting for cash. If they want to do R&D the money is out there. I don’t really think ‘universities’ was a critical keyword and neither is ‘college’. America is not slipping behind because we lack the technological know-how to do these things (and the best evidence I can give for that is that China is still relying on reverse-engineering for most of their technological development.

              I agree with you that more could be done in the form of federally-supported R&D but it’s not in direct investment, it’s in regulatory change that helps businesses and incentivizes R&D. Tax hikes, cumbersome regulation and price controls don’t accomplish any of that.

              1. Besides, universities and colleges aren’t critical? Where do you think scientists and engineers come from, spring fully-fleshed out of the forehead of the Secretary of Education?

                China relying on reverse-engineering is much less true now than it was just 5 years ago, and it won’t be at all in another 5 years. And in 10 years, they’ll have the largest economy in the world. Do the math.

                And the problem with leaving this to private businesses is that they tend to do applied research, the sort that create measurable profits within a reasonable timeframe. But new technologies come from basic research, which often fails, and which in any event may not turn a profit for up to 20 or 30 years. That’s the domain of universities and dedicated research centres, and requires a very high level of public funding.

                1. Of course universities are critical – but again, it’s a REFORM DOCUMENT targeted at perceived ills. You’ve said yourself that American universities are just fine. No need to discuss.

                  And also – are universities currently that hard up for cash? I recently read one study that shows UC Berkley only spends 20% of its budget on instruction AND reasearch. The lion’s share goes to teachers’ salaries. Doesn’t seem like funding is a real problem.

                  Also – a large economy doesn’t automatically mean better technology. It just means more money is coming in – much of it driven by a cheap workforce.

                  1. Yeah, alright, whatever you say.

                    There are just so many things here that completely baffle me.

                    I’m baffled by your extremely narrow definition of what a “reform paper” should do.

                    I’m baffled that a major political party anywhere in the world can issue a major policy (or “reform”) paper that doesn’t mention education or research with one word.

                    And I’m baffled that it is apparently so difficult for otherwise intelligent people to understand why that is a problem.

                    But I guess that’ll be your headache. Personally, I’ll be just as happy investing my meagre capital in Shanghai instead of New York if and when that time comes.

                    1. I’m equally baffled that Obama mentioned the word ‘abortion’ numerous times in his Blueprint for change and the word ‘adoption’ didn’t appear once. Everyone has their priorities…

                      As I believe I stated prior, this was also aimed at short-term reform. Education policy is long term, especially when your major beef is regarding primary schools.

                    2. Which leads us exactly back to my original point that the GOP apparently does not have any long-term ideas. If they do, surely they would have told us about them?

                    3. Again, I don’t think this document was the appropriate forum for a long-term discussion. The document was a basically a statement of, “If you elect us, these will be our first priorities.” And no, I don’t think federal funding of university-level R&D is a top priority right now (see my comments about the way that colleges are actually spending their revenue).

                    4. Counting words in a single speech is definitely an honest way of assessing someone’s deeper philosophical convictions.

                    5. Was that sarcasm Ames or are you serious?

                    6. The Blueprint for Change wasn’t a single speech…you know that right?

  9. Probably tuition. And no, I wasn’t conceding. Just noting that, even if I grant your promise, you’ve got one guy who’s on the outside of the leadership circle.

    1. If you can’t acknowledge Ryan is a major player there’s hardly any point in continuing the exercise. You’ve set the bard so high I’m not really sure who would qualify.

    2. Boehner, McConnell, DeMint, etc. Ryan’s been given a good committee, and that’s promising. But his major reforms have been blocked or not endorsed by leadership. Take it from someone who worked in the New York Assembly: the measure of a legislative body, or a party, is what actually happens and is actually put forward by leadership, not, try as we might, the extraordinary efforts of junior members.

      1. But I thought your primary criteria for prominence was media attention?

        1. Ames, he does have you there.

        2. Eh, I don’t think he has me at all. If coverage is the only rubric, Ryan gets approximately 1/10th of the coverage of Boehner (Google Trends). And coverage was a shorthand for political influence when the party was out of power. Now that the GOP has the House… it’s a little outdated, ne?

  10. Since Ryan is in the top 10 but not the top, 1/10th sounds about right. And just so we’re clear here, the influence of all House Democrats will be measured in media coverage between now and 2012, correct?

  11. Yeah, I don’t get the “replace” half of “repeal and replace”. And I don’t anticipate this particular piece of bread and circuses going away any faster than all the rest we got saddled with over the past 80 years or so.

  12. To Mike, from above:

    Again, I don’t think this document was the appropriate forum for a long-term discussion. The document was a basically a statement of, “If you elect us, these will be our first priorities.”

    So when do you think we can expect them to tell us what exactly they’re going to do long-term? I mean, it’s been two years since they lost power and supposedly decided to ‘reinvent’ their party, so one would expect them to have gotten around to it by now.

    Looking at their website, it’s not exactly overflowing with ideas, either. I’m just saying that when you have more to say about Pinckney Pinchback than you do about education, you have a bit of a problem.

    And no, I don’t think federal funding of university-level R&D is a top priority right now (see my comments about the way that colleges are actually spending their revenue).

    Yeah, I looked that up. UCB spends 27% on research, 31% on “instruction” and the remainder on all the other stuff universities do.

    Besides, taking money from teaching to do research would just be shooting yourself in the foot. Less teaching means fewer and less qualified researchers.

    Also besides, many academic teachers are also researchers (“research-based instruction” and all that), so it’s really a false distinction.

    1. Do we really need that much for the Right on education? I think the conservative positions are pretty clearly known. Stop tenure at the university level, get tuition under control, more oversight of budgets. At the lowe levels it’s about school choice, firing bad teachers, developing better assessment tools, etc. I’m not sure why all of that needs to be laid out in detail. And speaking of detail, party websites are usually fairly broad. If you want specifics, wait until we have a nominee in 2012.

      It appears I was incorrect about it being UCB. The article references UC.

      “For example, in 2009, 28% of the UC’s total operating revenue of $20 billion was dedicated to instruction and research, and the main source of this money was student tuition and state funds. “

      1. Considering the question of how to stay competitive in the face of massive technology investments by China, India and other emerging economies is one of the greatest challenges the US will face in the coming years, I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect it to be treated in some depth by any party that wants to be considered credible.

        By comparison, the Democrats are promising an overhaul of No Child Left Behind, large investment in basic research, support of development of green technologies (which is going to be a msjor investment area in the coming years), and and expansion of access to high-speed broadband. You just don’t see that kind of visions from the GOP – all they apparently can talk about is the deficit, which is certainly important, but not the only challenge.

        1. Careful there Lanfranc. Ames has already made it clear that broadband access is only a local issue comparible to trash pickup in lower Manhattan.

          1. So? I disagree with that, I think it’s quite essential for a national economy. We’re not a hive-mind here, you know.

            1. Hey – considering that I am the only conservative around here you can’t blame me for taking some small pleasures in liberal disharmony.

              I disagree with it as well and it’s why I was unhapy to see the money cut from the stimulus funds.

              1. No, you’re certainly welcome to it.

              2. Hey, I’m kind of conservative. About some things, at least.

                1. I think you defy definition Steve.

  13. Pulling Mike’s word-counting thing down:

    Yes, I misspoke.

    But the point remains. This is a trick that Republicans like Bill Kristol seem to have fallen in love with, and it’s about the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. There’s enough variety in the English language, and enough ways to creatively make the same point, that if one does nothing but control-F around in a document for key words, they’ll walk away with no useful information.

    Case in point, the word “abortion” appears not once in the Blueprint, actually (PDF). I should never let you assume your premise…

    1. My bad – they use, “Right to Choose” and not abortion. Still, adoption not mentioned.

      I appreciate though that you agree Lanfranc’s word assesment strategy was kind of silly for the Pledge to America.

    2. His point is rather different though, isn’t it? It’s not that the Pledge doesn’t use the word “education.” It’s that they don’t discuss that entire overarching issue.

      AT ALL.

      Which I actually hadn’t noticed.

      1. He searched for keywords. You said, “… if one does nothing but control-F around in a document for key words, they’ll walk away with no useful information. “

        If Lanfranc actually read the document too, that wasn’t made clear.

        1. Since there appears to be some doubt, let me just clarify that I have in fact read Pledge to America. I read it when it came out in September.

          Thank you for your interest.

      2. I’ve read it. There’s nothing about education in it. At all. Whether Lanfranc was right by accident or by design, doesn’t really matter.

        1. But just for future reference we all agree that keyword searches of policy papers are bad ideas.

          I still fail to see the importance of deep-diving on education or any of the other literally hundreds of fedeal responsibilities. I mean, it also doesn’t discuss ag subsidies. Is that irresponsible? It doesn’t discuss the role of FEMA in national disasters. I could argue that both of those directly relate to our economic success.

          1. With all due respect to the agricultural sector, it is not and will not be a primary engine of economic growth.

            China already now has a larger higher education sector and a greater post-secondary enrollment than the US. They can produce goods at the same quality, but at 1/5 of the price in the US. Your only real competitive advantage is in a higher technological level. If China, or India for that matter, keep investing in education and technology while the US cut those same budgets, how exactly are you going to keep that advantage? And if you don’t have that, how are you going to keep your jobs and earn money? This is a situation where you have to “move forward just to stay where you are”.

            (I think that quote is from Dilbert, but that doesn’t make it less true.)

            1. You said the university system in the US is in good shape. Now you’re telling us that we’re f*cked if we don’t dump tons of money into it?

              1. Structurally there’s no need to change it. But it needs to keep up with the competitors, which means higher budgets in general and more funding for basic research projects.

                1. Higher budgets? C’mon man. That’s nuts. How about killing sports programs? That’s a much better idea.

                  I also spent 30 minutes Googling this topic yesterday and I can’t find any credible source that is claiming there is a huge lack of R&D funding in universities. The biggest complaint I saw was that some are worried the massive amount of private funds may lock universities into corporate servitiude.

  14. The new Republican majority has started the fight against consumers which will have disastrous consequences for millions of American families. How come they want to deny insurance coverage to children who have already had a medical condition?

    1. Lorne,

      Why not bring those kids onto the federal dole with the SChip program?

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