Why Did The GOP Think It Had To Delay The Health Reform Repeal Vote

Bill Scher

As Republicans prepared to take over the House, they announced one of their first bills would be the repeal of health reform because “that’s what the American people want.”

If that’s true, and repealing health reform is simply a sound policy decision called upon by the public, then why would Republicans have to indefinitely delay a vote that was scheduled for Wednesday in response to Saturday’s attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords?

Yes, a memorial service is scheduled for Wednesday, which many congresspeople presumably plan to attend, but that would only require pushing back the vote a day or two.

But to have to vote this week would mean that:

1) Much of nation’s attention would not be focused on the repeal vote in advance;

and

2) If past strident attacks on health reform as a socialistic takeover took place again, much of the nation’s attention would return to the repeal … and not in a good way.

If you are planning to engage in serious policy-making overwhelmingly supported by the American people, these realities would be minor concerns at best. No one would consider it inappropriate for Congress to return to work several days after a tragedy for a calm, reasonable and factual debate over health policy to advance a popular policy goal.

But if you are planning to engage in a cheap political stunt to stoke your party’s base over a polarized issue, these realities are insurmountable obstacles.

The whole idea of the House voting on a repeal bill — which everyone knows is dead-on-arrival at the Senate — is for Republicans to push as much misinformation about the law into the discourse as possible, precisely because repeal is not what most voters want, and convince the right-wing rank-and-file that the new House still has its teabag on.

Neither of those conservative objectives can be accomplished by a calm, reasonable and factual debate over the particulars of the health reform law. They require extremist, bombastic and dishonest language.

The fact that House Republicans were compelled to delay the health reform repeal vote in response to public outrage over overheated political rhetoric, makes plain that Republicans expect supporters of health reform repeal to engage in overheated political rhetoric.

And that without overheated political rhetoric, there’s little point for conservatives to have the vote.

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