Last night, President Obama said, “Let’s not have another forty-something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping millions of Americans like Amanda. The first forty were plenty. We got it.” He appears to be repeating a widespread claim that House Republicans, since taking control of the chamber in the 2010 elections, have voted more than forty times to repeal Obamacare. That claim is often used to suggest that Republicans are obsessed and delusional, voting to repeal the law again and again even though they cannot prevail so long as Obama is president.
Here is a list of all floor actions the House has taken on Obamacare from the time Republicans took control through mid-May. Since then there have been a few more Obamacare-related votes: chiefly the votes surrounding the shutdown and the vote to let people keep their canceled health plans, but also a few others. That makes for 48 total floor actions. In going through the list one has to make judgment calls to determine whether a particular bill or amendment would so cripple Obamacare as to constitute a de facto repeal. Blocking IRS agents from enforcing any Obamacare provision seems like it would amount to repeal; getting rid of the medical-device tax, as most Senate Democrats have voted to do, does not. Adopting a broad definition of repeal, I think you can get the number of House votes to repeal Obamacare up to 15. For example, I’m counting the times the House has adopted the Ryan budget, which includes repeal, as repeal votes. I’m also counting the time the House directed the Senate to take a vote on defunding Obamacare as a repeal vote. I don’t see how you can get anywhere near 40.
Also of note: Of the 48 floor actions, 8 concerned legislation that President Obama signed into law.
What’s odd about this particular stretching of the truth is that it doesn’t, as far as I can tell, make any substantive or political difference. Would it be so much less effective for Obama to say that House Republicans had voted 15 times to repeal Obamacare, and enough is enough?
P.S. Forgot to make this point: Democrats sometimes say that they welcome Republican ideas for modifying, fixing, or improving Obamacare, but they’ve got to stop just trying to get rid of it. This count suggests that when Republicans try to modify the program–indeed, when the succeed in modifying it–they’ll be treated it as though all they were doing was holding one repeal vote after another. It’s not, in other words, a good-faith statement.