That shows that Republicans are satisfying their base voters by continuing to push against the law, Blendon says.
“For their own base and people who lean towards them, it’s not costly to be against this bill at the moment,” he said.
That helps explain why Cruz pushed his amendment in the Senate and the Republican-led House adopted a fiscal 2014 budget resolution (H Con Res 25) that would repeal most of the law.
For their part, Democrats say the continued push for repeal is repetitive and pointless.
“There are still some in Congress who stubbornly refuse to accept reality,” Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said in a written statement last week. “The old battles have been fought, and the American people have spoken. It is time to move forward — not to be dragged backward — to create a reformed health care system that works not just for the healthy and wealthy, but for all Americans.”
For the Record
Another reason for the continued repeal votes is that newcomers to Congress want to get on record as opposing the law — especially those who ran campaigns based on repealing it.
“Some of the newer, newly elected members in the Senate had not been asked to cast that vote,” Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said of the move to adopt the Cruz amendment. “Now we have on record all the members of the United States Senate, current members of the United States Senate, on that, so I think there is value in doing that.”
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who co-sponsored Cruz’s amendment, agreed that it was important to get lawmakers on the record one more time.
“The naysayers, those who say we don’t need to have this vote because we know how it’s going to come out, ignore the fact that this is an important part of the process — an important part of the process whereby voters across America can hold their elected representatives accountable to see who still supports the implementation of this law,” Lee said.
Many Republicans also are wary of facing a potential primary challenge from opponents who paint themselves as more conservative. Voting to repeal the law is one way to prove conservative bona fides. The Club for Growth and FreedomWorks both counted the vote on the Cruz amendment as a key vote.
“Senior Republicans who are up in the Senate still face challenges, and the challenges come from the right and not from the left,” Blendon said.
Repeal Before Replace
The second half of the Republicans’ goal to “repeal and replace” the law can get overlooked with all of the repeal votes. But some observers say the health care law must be swept out first before the GOP can start replacing it with its own health care policies.
“What’s being done here is to clear the way for other things Republicans want to do in terms of reforming the health care system,” said David Winston, president of the Winston Group, a strategy and polling firm.
He mentioned GOP standbys such as allowing people to buy insurance across state lines, changing the medical liability system and turning Medicaid into a block grant system, which was proposed in the House GOP budget blueprint.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.