House votes to repeal ObamaCare -- for the 33rd time

Thirty-third time’s the charm?

Members approved the bill in a 244-185 vote, after five hours of debate that stretched over two days.

As expected, just a handful of Democrats supported the GOP repeal bill. Five Democrats sided with Republicans in the final vote, more than the four who sided with Republicans in a Tuesday procedural vote…

“For those who still support repealing this harmful healthcare law, we’re giving our colleagues in the Senate another chance to heed the will of the American people,” Boehner said, noting the House vote against the law at the start of the 112th Congress. “And for those who did not support repeal the last time, it’s a chance for our colleagues to reconsider.”

It’s worth doing this, I suppose, as theater for Republican voters, to reassure them that the GOP really will drop the bomb on O-Care if given the chance. Although … how reassuring is it really? These votes are being taken with absolute certainty that the bill is DOA in the Senate and on Obama’s desk. How much can you fairly extrapolate from that about the commitment of centrist Republicans to repeal if the GOP retakes the White House and Congress and suddenly their votes mean something? Beyond that, remember that House Democrats are enjoying these votes too: They’re base-pleasers for both sides, as even Republican strategists acknowledge, since they remind liberals of how drastic the consequences would be for their pet boondoggle if they don’t turn out in the fall and salvage some part of government for the left. It’s fine as a symbolic flipping of the bird to John Roberts and his new best friend in the White House, but after 33 roll calls, I’m thinking the vote-shifting potential of these gestures has reached a point of diminishing returns.

Another thing. What effect are these votes having on the caucus?

“As a doctor I fully endorse — and as a Republican I fully endorse — the goals of the 2010 health law,” said New York Rep. Nan A.S. Hayworth (R), an ophthalmologist, on Tuesday. “Every American should have access to good, affordable health care and affordable, portable health insurance.”

In moderate New Hampshire, Rep. Charlie Bass (R) indicated he wanted to find a way to allow young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans and to prevent insurance companies from barring those with pre-existing conditions from purchasing coverage…

“There are more voices now saying we’ve got to have something to replace the law with,” said one Republican House member, who asked not to be named so he could freely describe the thinking of GOP colleagues. “And some substance to the replacement, because that’s what they’re hearing back home, because that’s what the other side hits us on. There are stronger calls for that within the conference.”

If the optics of a barrage of repeal votes without an agreed-upon replacement plan is starting to give centrist Republicans cold feet, that’s bad news. In fact, predictably it’s the centrists on both sides who are most tormented by these votes: Of the five Democrats who voted with the GOP today, two are from reddish-purple North Carolina and the other three come from the Republican strongholds of Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Utah. (The Utahn is Jim Matheson, who’s facing a stiff challenge from tea-party favorite Mia Love.) These votes would be hilarious if there was still a sizable Blue Dog presence in the Democratic caucus, but the big red wave of 2010 washed most of them away and now we’re left with a few stragglers trying to stay above water. Let us savor their discomfort, my friends, as we mourn our latest thwarted repeal.

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