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House Votes To Repeal Obamacare Again

United States Capitol Building, Washington, D.C. Aerial

Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act for what was, according to one count, the 56th time:

WASHINGTON — The House passed a bill on Tuesday to repeal the Affordable Care Act for the first time in the new Congress, but Democrats appeared to show more zeal in defending the law than Republicans did in trying to get rid of it.

The measure goes now to the Senate, where the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, has said that the chamber will vote on legislation repealing the health law but has not announced a schedule.

Republicans in both chambers are divided over how to replace the law and how to respond if the Supreme Court upholds a challenge to insurance subsidies now being provided to millions of people under the law.

The House vote, 239 to 186, generally followed party lines. No Democrats voted for repeal. Three Republicans — Representatives Robert Dold of Illinois, John Katko of upstate New York and Bruce Poliquin of Maine — voted against the bill.

Despite an explicit veto threat from President Obama, Republicans said the vote on Tuesday was necessary to give new House members a chance to take a stand on the health law, which most Republicans had campaigned against. Freshman Republicans like Representatives Jody Hice of Georgia and Mia Love of Utah were among the most outspoken critics of the law on Tuesday.

Democrats said it was the 56th time since 2011 that the House had voted to repeal or undermine some or all of the law, which was adopted in 2010 without any Republican votes.

This time the repeal vote was different because millions of Americans have gained coverage through provisions of the law that expanded eligibility forMedicaid and subsidized private insurance for low- and middle-income people.

The chief sponsor of the repeal bill, Representative Bradley Byrne, Republican of Alabama, said opinion polls showed that a majority of Americans had unfavorable views of the law.

“I don’t believe Obamacare can be fixed through piecemeal reforms,” Mr. Byrne said. “The only way to get rid of this harmful law is to repeal Obamacare in its entirety.”

Previous efforts by the House to repeal the Affordable Care Act have gone nowhere, of course, because they died in the Democratic controlled Senate. In that case, the bill in question would either simply be ignored by Senate leadership, in which case there would never even be a vote on it, or it would be tabled via a party-line vote that only requires a simple majority. With the new Republican majority that’s no longer possible, but that doesn’t mean that the bill is any more likely to get to the President’s desk. There will be at least some form of debate in the Senate on the bill and a vote, but due to the Senate’s filibuster rules and the fact that it’s unlikely that any Democrats will cross party lines to support the bill so the bill will likely die during a cloture vote when it fails to get past the sixty vote threshold. And, of course, even if the Republicans in the Senate somehow find a way to get around the 60 vote requirement, the bill will be vetoed and there is not a sufficient majority in either House to override a Presidential veto. Therefore, even though the Senate is now under GOP control this vote to repeal the PPACA is still just as symbolic, and some would say pointless, as it was when the House GOP did it fifty-five times between January 2011 and December 2014. The ultimate result, however, will be exactly the same.

Even during the course of this debate, though, many have noted that Republicans may not be able to avoid the question of providing an alternative to, or proposing reforms to, the Affordable Care Act for very much longer. One of the key moments in that regard will come early next month when the Supreme Court hears oral argument in King v. Burwell,  the case challenging Internal Revenue Service rules that allow the tax credits provided for in the law to be granted to people who purchase insurance under both health care exchanges set up by individual states and the exchanges set up by the Federal Government. The Plaintiff’s in King have argued that the statute as written only authorizes tax credits for insurance purchased via the state based exchanges and, therefore, that the IRS rule improperly applies the law. Should the Supreme Court accept the Plaintiff’s argument then millions of people will find themselves with hugely inflated medical insurance bills unless Congress does something to reform the law. Recent polling has indicated that the public would overwhelmingly favor Congress acting to restore the subsidies if the Supreme Court rules for the Plaintiffs, but at first glance it seems unlikely that Republicans in Congress would be inclined to do that. Whether they’d change their minds after a Supreme Court decision remains to be seen, but at the very least a decision in favor of the Plaintiffs in Burwell would increase pressure on the GOP to do more than just talk about repealing the law, which quite obviously is not going to happen as long as President Obama is in office.

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Tony W says:

    I really felt like #27 was going to go somewhere, but alas….

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  2. Stan says:

    It isn’t the futility of the vote that’s so important, it’s the underlying intent and sentiment. The Republicans in Congress and their supporters are willing to see 10 million or more Americans lose their health insurance and with it their access to medical care. In fact, they’re happy about it. To me, they seem like people without a soul.

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  3. al-Ameda says:

    Yes, I think we can all agree that this Republican House and Senate is operating so much differently than the previous Republican House did.

    Not only have the great majority of Republican governors and Republican-controlled statehouses largely refused to implement important features of ACA that would result in serving citizens in most need of insurance (Medicaid expansion), but they are determined to impose their will on states where implementation of ACA has been a success.

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  4. Scott says:

    The Republicans also passed a whole list of principles, criteria, features that they want a replacement Healthcare Act to contain. It looked remarkably like the Affordable Care Act. Kinda fraudulent.

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  5. humanoid.panda says:

    @Scott: Actually, the list literally said that what they want is something like the ACA, but without spending any money nor issuing any regulations. Next stop: unicorns and ice cream for everyone!

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  6. C. Clavin says:

    We should repeal it…because it’s working better than promised…and we can’t have that.

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  7. C. Clavin says:

    Wait…so Red States are adding Obamacare one after another…and the House wants to undo that anyway?

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  8. Pinky says:

    “Democrats said it was the 56th time since 2011 that the House had voted to repeal or undermine some or all of the law”.

    That’s different from what you said in the subhead. You might also note that some of those votes have been signed into law.

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  9. C. Clavin says:

    @humanoid.panda:
    Well the House has already, since winning the mid-term, forced the CBO to use magic-unicorn-math in their scoring of legislation…so now free ice cream for everyone is not only possible….but easy. Yum, yum….

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  10. Barfour says:

    Republicans are not known for their intelligence. It’s a huge puzzle to me why anyone votes for them. A HUGE puzzle. I just don’t get it. m.dailykos.com/story/2015/02/03/1362005/-Republican-senator-says-restaurants-should-be-able-to-opt-out-of-mandatory-handwashing?detail=twitter

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  11. John Peabody says:

    OTB has posted an article about the Republicans voting to repeal the PPACA for the 56th time, but it’s clear that this post will end up being as pointless as all the others.

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  12. Pinky says:

    @Tony W: #27 was H.R. 5 (2012), which was composed of tort reform, the elimination of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, changes to the Public Health Service Act to protect health care workers, and the restoration of antitrust laws to health sector insurers.

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  13. Slugger says:

    Sounds like Mitch McConnell has little interest in chasing this will-o’-wisp. Perhaps we could give each Republican member of the House a big trophy and a medal that they can wear affirming their brave fight. Then they display that instead of going for another vote.
    Obama is probably breaking out in laughter from time to time.

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  14. C. Clavin says:

    When was the last time Republicans contributed anything of value???

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  15. David M says:

    @Pinky:

    Why do a couple minor tweaks to the law matter? it’s still completely true that the GOP has repeatedly tried to repeal Obamacare to the point where it’s become a joke.

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  16. Scott says:

    @Slugger: McConnell is treading softly here because Kentucky is arguably among the best implementation of ACA.

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  17. Neil Hudelson says:

    If the King v. Burwell case succeeds, and 10 million people lose health care, I can’t wait for all the campaign ads asking why Politician John Doe voted 56 times to take away healthcare.

    All these votes–purely to secure primary wins–will suddenly become huge liabilities in the general election.

    It would be fun to watch if it weren’t for the fact that it would mean millions of people no longer have health insurance.

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  18. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    So, Doug, when the Republicans who were elected to control both Houses of Congress pass legislation that Obama doesn’t like, they’re acting in futility.

    When they refuse to pass legislation that Obama wants, they’re being obstructionist.

    So, in your mind, the only productive use of their time is to do what Obama wants?

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  19. gVOR08 says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: I’m sure Doug can speak for himself. But yes, as long as they refuse to bargain and compromise and put together something the President and/or a sufficient number of Dems in the House and Senate will accept, that’s the way the Constitution works. Sorry for your loss.

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  20. al-Ameda says:

    @C. Clavin:

    When was the last time Republicans contributed anything of value???

    Abe Lincoln? No, wait … Teddy Roosevelt, right?

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  21. Davebo says:

    @Pinky:

    Thanks Pinky! That context changes everything about the subject.

    As much as another silly GOP vote will change the ACA.

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  22. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @gVOR08: What loss? The GOP won the last round of elections. And why isn’t it incumbent on Obama to compromise?

    Oh, yeah, that whole “co-equal branches of government” thing is racist or something.

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  23. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    In both cases Republicans demand full capitulation. They aren’t asking for compromise and aren’t willing to compromise. Are you unable to understand that, or are you lying in the hopes that someone won’t notice?

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  24. Facebones says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    The GOP won the last round of elections. And why isn’t it incumbent on Obama to compromise?

    Yes, I remember well the spirit of Republican compromise that gripped congress in 2008 and 2012.

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  25. Gustopher says:

    This one makes sense — new congress, and a lot of new congress critters who want to vote on it, just so they have it on record that they officially oppose it. It’s theater, since it won’t go anywhere, but it makes sense.

    The previous 50 or so votes… Those made no sense.

    Maybe they can limit themselves to 5-10 votes per congress? Repeal, defund, nibble at the edges… And then move on to actually fix any of our nations problems (although, given Republican solutions for everything is tax cuts, social security cuts and restricting abortion, maybe they should just vote again and again to repeal the ACA)

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  26. stonetools says:

    The Republicans are actually worried that the Supreme Court will do that for them, because, guess what, they have no fecking idea of what to replace it with.
    They finally got around to appointing a committee to draft a replacement plan a few days ago, led by the blue eyed granny starver Paul Ryan.They are talking about a “patient centered” replacement. What does ” patient centered” mean?

    Republicans in the Senate have also talked about a potential “patient-centered” blueprint that would scale back government financial support for consumers and make policyholders responsible for more of their medical bills.

    So, like Obamacare but stingier.We can’t wait.

    Let’s be blunt. Being governed by Republicans is being governed by sociopaths. Only sociopaths would vote to deprive ten million Americans of access to health care, wiith no detailed plan of what to replace it with it, except to make it stingier than a plan that is working well.

    ” Sociopaths” also describe those m*therfeckers Cannon and Adler, who brought this misbegotten lawsuit, which they know is based on a lie. How they sleep at night I have no idea.
    Meanwhile, who stands to lose if the lawsuit is successful, or if Obamacare is repealed ?

    “The new Urban study finds that the biggest regional loser from the court case would be the South. More than 60 percent of people who would lose their individual health insurance live there. Among different income groups, the largest reductions would come for those earning between 200 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level — or between about $40,000 and $80,000 for a family of three. Forty-seven percent of the people who would lose insurance have full-time jobs, and 34 percent have part-time jobs. Sixty-one percent are white. Forty-seven percent have attended at least some college. Ninety-two percent would probably describe their health as better than fair.”

    If there is any question that racism and conservatism makes you stupid, that quotation should resolve it.

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  27. OzarkHillbilly says:

    , but at the very least a decision in favor of the Plaintiffs in Burwell would increase pressure on the GOP to do more than just talk about repealing the law,

    Ooooh oooh I know I know pick me PICK MEEEEE…

    Tax cuts and deregulation.

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  28. gVOR08 says:

    @stonetools: I forget who came up with Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle for Republican health care proposals. I think there’s actually always been one Republican proposal or another. It allowed them to say they had an alternative. But if any one of them happens to approach actually being considered as legislation, it ceases to exist.

    @OzarkHillbilly: And tort reform. Don’t forget tort reform.

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  29. Tyrell says:

    @C. Clavin: But there is room for some improvement. A lot of people are in no man’s land: can’t afford the premiums and don’t qualify for a subsidy. How about all of this information gathering ? Why is that ? Doctors are complaining that all of their time is spent on the laptop. Patients complain that their doctor no longer has time to talk to them. Appointment wait times are worse than ever (I give them 20 minutes, then I leave). And where does all of this information go ? Some of the doctors around here have gone back to paper.

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  30. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Tyrell:

    A lot of people are in no man’s land: can’t afford the premiums and don’t qualify for a subsidy.

    And almost all of those people, AFAIK, are in states that refused to expand Medicaid, leaving those folks swinging in the wind. If they are having difficulty complying with the law, perhaps they should contact those Republican state legislators that they voted for who subsequently shafted them?

    In an odd way, it’s sort of poetic justice that an affirmative ruling in King v. Burwell, et al, will so disproportionately impact the South, given that much the wailing about this law emanates from that region of the country. You get what you vote for …

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  31. C. Clavin says:

    @Tyrell:

    But there is room for some improvement.

    Sure. Repeal is not the same as improvement.
    Anyone left hanging in the wind probably lives in a red state that has decided to leave people hanging in the wind for ideological reasons.

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  32. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Facebones: Yes, I remember well the spirit of Republican compromise that gripped congress in 2008 and 2012.

    How about 2007?

    For more fun, compare with this speech, where Obama not only doesn’t acknowledge the crushing defeat his party suffered in the last election, but calls upon them to continue the agenda of the previous Congress.

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  33. steve says:

    As noted, the GOP did not compromise when Obama won his elections. Since the GOP won in midterms, when many fewer people vote, that means Obama had many more people vote for him than did the GOP Congress. So, since 2010 Congress has been unable to pass any legislation at all. Now, they have the potential for passing legislation, but in order for it to become law it must be something Obama will be willing to sign. I agree that he should be willing to compromise, but is this Congress able to pass anything other than red meat legislation to appease its base. I don’t think so.

    Steve

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  34. Tyrell says:

    It seems to me that the President and Congress should put their heads together, drop some attitudes, roll up their sleeves, send out for pizza, use some common sense, and work these things out like people in the real world do. That is problem solving. Now is there anything wrong with that ? Is that too much to ask or expect from our elected leaders ?

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  35. An Interested Party says:

    How about 2007?

    That was one speech by George W. Bush…hardly relevant compared to the actions of Republicans in Congress since Obama was elected president…

    …where Obama not only doesn’t acknowledge the crushing defeat his party suffered in the last election, but calls upon them to continue the agenda of the previous Congress.

    Oh boo hoo…how dare that uppity Kenyan usurper not grovel at the feet of Mitch McConnell and John Boehner…just who does he think he is…

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  36. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @An Interested Party: just who does he think he is…

    He apparently thinks he’s the head of the most powerful and important part of the government, and it’s the other branches’ job to defer to him. Hell, he once asserted that he had the right to declare when Congress was in recess, over Congress’ own objections.

    And this guy taught Constitutional law.

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  37. Anonne says:

    @al-Ameda:

    @C. Clavin:

    When was the last time Republicans contributed anything of value???

    Abe Lincoln? No, wait … Teddy Roosevelt, right?

    Eisenhower. And truthfully, that image is probably why anyone bothers to vote Republican anyway.

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  38. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Tyrell: Don’t tell me, tell your Congressman and Senators–especially if they are from the GOP.

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  39. DrDaveT says:

    At what point does honesty compel the headline “House Republicans vote to withdraw health insurance from ten million Americans”? It’s only accurate to characterize the action as “repealing Obamacare” in the interim between passage and implementation. After that, you’re voting for the government to Take Stuff Away From Poor People.

    Sometimes, of course, that’s the correct decision. Repealing the Bush prescription drug giveaway, which is a much larger hemorrhage of the budget than the ACA, would be both fiscally prudent and a case of Taking Stuff Away From Poor People.

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  40. An Interested Party says:

    He apparently thinks he’s the head of the most powerful and important part of the government, and it’s the other branches’ job to defer to him.

    Ohhhh…and the evidence for this is that he wasn’t wearing sackcloth and ashes while giving that speech…gotcha…

    Hell, he once asserted that he had the right to declare when Congress was in recess, over Congress’ own objections.

    He obviously learned that from his predecessors

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  41. al-Ameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    It seems to me that the President and Congress should put their heads together, drop some attitudes, roll up their sleeves, send out for pizza, use some common sense, and work these things out like people in the real world do.

    That is problem solving. Now is there anything wrong with that? Is that too much to ask or expect from our elected leaders ?

    LOL!

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  42. C. Clavin says:

    Number of times Republicans have voted to repeal Obamacare…56.
    Number of times Republicans have promised their own alternative to Obamacare…20.
    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/gop-obamacare-alternative-promises
    Number of times Republicans have delivered on that promise…exactly zero.

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  43. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @al-Ameda: Actually, Eisenhower had a lot of people pushing him to undo the New Deal. But, as an experienced commander, he knew not to get into a battle with no chance of winning.

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  44. C. Clavin says:

    @Tyrell:
    You are 100% correct.
    Everytime Obama has tried to do so, Republicans have walked away.
    Obamacare.
    The Grand Bargain.
    Simpson Bowles.
    Immigration.
    Cap and Trade.
    The problem with labeling someone the devil incarnate, a socialist, someone out to destroy the nation….it’s kinda hard to be seen negotiating with them.

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  45. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    He apparently thinks he’s the head of the most powerful and important part of the government, and it’s the other branches’ job to defer to him. Hell, he once asserted that he had the right to declare when Congress was in recess, over Congress’ own objections.

    Kinda like how the GOP said that Bush didn’t need authorization from Congress to invade Iraq?

    Or how the unconstitutional “Palm Sunday Compromise” was passed in the Senate without a quorum and with only three members present?

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  46. stonetools says:

    Poor Jenos can’t really find any evidence for his caricature of an uncompromising Obama, whereas we can find plenty of evidence of unprecedented onstructionism by the Republicans, beginning January 20, 2009:

    The dinner lasted nearly four hours. They parted company almost giddily. The Republicans had agreed on a way forward:

    Go after Geithner. (And indeed Kyl did, the next day: ‘Would you answer my question rather than dancing around it—please?’)

    Show united and unyielding opposition to the president’s economic policies. (Eight days later, Minority Whip Cantor would hold the House Republicans to a unanimous No against Obama’s economic stimulus plan.)

    Begin attacking vulnerable Democrats on the airwaves. (The first National Republican Congressional Committee attack ads would run in less than two months.)

    Win the spear point of the House in 2010. Jab Obama relentlessly in 2011. Win the White House and the Senate in 2012.

    I think it’s important to emphasize, once again, that the current ACA is already a major compromise. The liberal approach from the beginning was always single payer-Medicare For All. The ACA approach is a version of the Republican approach, centered on private health insurers. Indeed, many liberals bitterly opposed the ACA as a “sellout” to the insurance companies. They only swung behind the ACA when it became clear the debate was about not what the was the best way to achieve universal health insurance, but whether we would have any kind of univeral health insurance program at all. I think both Obama and liberals were blindsided by the sheer peversity of Republican opposition to the ACA. They could understand a philosophical debate about the best way to achieve universal health insurance They couldn’t understand an opposition party dedicated to the goal of keeping tens of millions of people from having any access to health care at all.
    The good thing is that the Democrats have prevailed, and the Administration did implement to the ACA, in face of massive resistance by the Republicans. It is becoming increasingly apparent that it is working, if anything, better than advertised, which means that there can be no turning back. The public isn’t going to stand for a Republican plan that delivers less than the ACA, and the Republicans have yet to come up with any serious alternative to the ACA ( and I bet never will).
    As to the Supreme Court, Roberts is nothing if not an acute observer of the political scene. It’s one thing for SCOTUS to cripple an unpopular program that’s not working well: its quite another to cripple (on questionable legal grounds) an increasingly popular program that’s working well .Most everyone outside the Fox News Bubble knows that Burwell lawsuit is based on a dishonest reading of the facts and on a cockeyed legal theory. Roberts understands this, which is why I’m betting on a 5-4 decision upholding the ACA. I think Roberts ‘ pound of flesh will be taking another whack at limiting commerce clause in return for providing the fifth vote. But I believe he will be that fifth vote.

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  47. Matt says:

    @Tyrell: Those people are in “no man’s land” because the governors of their state refuse to accept the medicare expansion money and such. I know this because in my state (Texas) I would be covered under the expansion if my Governor wasn’t such a dick.

    This is one of the reasons I supported single payer for all. Unfortunately Obama had to compromise heavily to get anything passed..

    Which makes it even funnier that jenos is like OMG OBAMA NEEDS TO COMPROMISE ON HIS COMPROMISES!!!

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  48. Tyrell says:

    @Matt: I always favored expanding medicare to pull in the people who were denied, lost their job, or could not afford the huge premiums. This would have been simpler and the roll out computer disaster would have been avoided. I could see that this would not get through Congress, which is a puzzler considering that most did not have a problem with the prescription drug expansion back around 2005.
    Look at this curious bit of news: IRS computers date back to the Kennedy administration ! And they even show a picture of the huge, monolithic terminal ! One thing for sure, back then things were built to last ! I read a few years ago that some government offices still use rotary phones and don’t have flourescent lights !
    I can find some links if anyone wants one.

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  49. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Timothy Watson: Kinda like how the GOP said that Bush didn’t need authorization from Congress to invade Iraq?

    No.

    1) Under the terms of Saddam’s 1991 surrender, Bush didn’t need Congress to approve — the previous AUMF was still in force.

    2) Bush actually did get Congressional approval.

    Fun fact: Joe Biden voted FOR the 2003 invasion — and AGAINST the 1991 one.

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  50. Tyrell says:

    @al-Ameda: Gerald Ford.

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  51. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    Fun fact: Joe Biden voted FOR the 2003 invasion — and AGAINST the 1991 one.
    Another Fun Fact: after he secured congressional approval, George W. Bush rushed to war once it became apparent that weapons inspections were showing that there no WMDs to be found.

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  52. grumpy realist says:

    @Tyrell: Have you been under a rock for the last 6 years?

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