Tonight Republicans opened the most important policy battle of the next two years—the struggle to undo Obamacare—by signaling their commitment to wholesale repeal. Of course, the chances that this full repeal bill will be enacted while Barack Obama is president are exceedingly low. Even if the bill is brought up in the Democratic Senate, it would have a hard time passing; even if it passes, the president would veto it. But that doesn’t make this vote merely symbolic. The repeal bill is a statement of principle and purpose, and—as John Podhoretz astutely notes—it compels every member of the House to tell the voters clearly where he or she stands with respect to this, the clearest and most stark dividing line of our politics. That’s why Mitch McConnell’s commitment to do all he can to force a vote in the Senate is important too—the 23 Democratic senators who will be up for reelection in 2012 should be made to state their position on the health-care law.
Less than a year after the law was enacted, a new House of Representatives, with a majority elected in no small part on the basis of its opposition to that law, has voted (by a significantly greater margin than that by which the law passed) to repeal it. More than half the states are suing to undo it. The public remains opposed to the bill, and by as great a margin as ever. And yet, it seems the Democrats have still not quite grasped just how vulnerable the law is, and just how vulnerable it continues to make them. Tonight’s vote is the beginning of an effort that will surely make them better aware, and that in time stands a chance of helping America avert the grave harm that this law—if fully implemented—would do to our health-care system and our economy, and of allowing us to put in its place a real consumer-oriented reform of American health care.
It’s a worthy start, but much work remains.