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House Republicans Take Another Stab At Repealing Obamacare


From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Melissa Block.

Today, the House of Representatives voted to repeal the president's healthcare law, again. Depending on how you count, the Republican House has voted to defund or repeal all or part of the law 37 times.

Here's NPR's Tamara Keith to explain why.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: In the abstract, Americans are deeply divided over the president's health care law, the Affordable Care Act. But in the House Republican conference, opinions are united - Obamacare has to go.

REPRESENTATIVE JEFF DUNCAN: Actually we can't vote enough to repeal Obamacare. We could vote on it every day.

KEITH: Congressman Jeff Duncan is a Republican from South Carolina. He knows that a full repeal of the health care law doesn't have a shot of being signed by the president, but still, he insists this vote isn't symbolic.

DUNCAN: This is a position that most of us ran on, that is to repeal Obamacare and I think we're going to continue to do that. I don't think this will be the last vote.

KEITH: But if the House has already voted to undo all or part of the law three dozen times before, why do it again? That question was put to House Speaker John Boehner last week.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER: Well, we've got 70 new members that have not had the opportunity to vote on the president's health care law. Frankly, they've been asking for an opportunity to vote on it and we're going to give it to them.

KEITH: One of those freshmen is Doug LaMalfa, a Republican from Northern California. But he insists this isn't just about freshmen like him. He calls it the Obama health care takeover and says it's proving to be increasingly unworkable.

REPRESENTATIVE DOUG LAMALFA: There's all these things that are coming together. It's like this ugly perfect storm of things all happening at once that we can take this snapshot right now, with a vote here in the House. And maybe, you know, we capture the heart of the public on this issue because they're starting to really get what we've been warning about for several years now.

KEITH: But according to a memo the speaker's office sent out earlier this week, this will only be the third vote for total repeal. Of the 36 swipes at the law, seven changes have actually been signed into law by the president. That didn't stop Democrats like Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz from going to the House floor and highlighting the sheer repetition.

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: This is the Republicans' 37th callous attempt to derail health care reform. Rather than work to create jobs and to improve our economy, Republicans are focused on taking away key patients' rights and benefits that are already improving countless American lives.

KEITH: House Republicans don't seem too concerned with that criticism. John Fleming is a congressman from Louisiana.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN FLEMING: I just think, hey, every few months, let's do the repeal again. Do it again. Do it again.

KEITH: His hope is that eventually the result would change. Maybe some Democrats would peel off. Pressure would build.

FLEMING: Sometimes if you just keep passing the bill over and over again, it'll gain traction, particularly with the American people.

KEITH: And if not with all the American people, then at least with those likely to vote in Republican primaries a year from now.

Tamara Keith, NPR news, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.