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‘Very, Very Old Battles’ Revisited

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer alluded to the idea that any legislative effort between now and the November elections is more likely destined to be referenced in a 30-second political ad than it is to produce a bill for President Barack Obama’s signature.

We’ve seen this movie before, but then again, it could be the sequel.

In a speech Monday, President Barack Obama stated his position on the Bush-era tax cuts once again — that they should be extended for those making less than $250,000 annually.

Meanwhile, House Republicans are preparing to vote to repeal Obama’s health care law once again. By Wednesday, the chamber will have voted to kill all or some of the law more than 30 times.

With less than four months until Election Day, however, it’s clear to all parties involved that none of this will pass before November.

Instead, what it all amounts to is political posturing, a fact conceded by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer. Asked Monday whether Congress could take up substantive issues before the elections or whether bills and initiatives brought up by Members are more likely to lead to 30-second campaign ads, the Maryland Democrat was frank.

“Unfortunately,” he said, “the latter is more probable than the former.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pinned the blame on Republicans and said they should stop seeking to refight the health care debate, praising the Senate’s recent legislative achievements, including passage of a farm bill, a transportation bill, a flood insurance bill and a measure staving off a doubling of interest rates for student loans.

“Rather than wasting time participating in political theater, we actually legislated,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “I’d hope we’d continue that productive process in this work period, characterized by cooperation between lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol and between both chambers.

“Unfortunately we already know that our colleagues in the House are going to waste much of their short work period refighting very, very old battles,” he said about the health care vote. “This is almost hard to comprehend.”

A House GOP leadership aide said the Supreme Court changed the game when it ruled the law constitutional last month. Democrats who voted against past repeals might be more inclined to vote for this one because Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that the individual mandate was constitutional because it was a tax.

“The circumstances have changed,” the aide said. “Now that the Supreme Court has found that it is a tax, and therefore constitutional, maybe they’ll see the light.”

As the House seeks to once again underscore its opposition to the 2010 health care law, Senate Republicans are not expected to seek wholesale repeal of the law as part of the Senate tax debate that will likely begin Tuesday.

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