WASHINGTON — It’s rare in politics that both major parties salivate over the same vote because they think it holds a political advantage for them. Today is one of those days.
For freshman Republican Chip Cravaack, today’s vote to fully repeal the health care overhaul law will be his first significant policy vote as a member of Congress. And for him, the decision is easy.
“This is the mission that the people sent me to do, so that’s what I’m going to do,” Cravaack said. Simple as that.
DFL leaders, meanwhile, pounced on his vote before he even cast it, charging that Cravaack is in his first major vote is bowing to Tea Party politics and kowtowing to the insurance lobby.
Minnesota’s votes are all committed. The three Republicans who voted against the bill last year, John Kline, Michele Bachmann and Erik Paulsen will vote for full repeal alongside Cravaack, who ran in part on repeal.
On the Democratic side, Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum and Tim Walz all originally voted for it, and they’ll vote to keep it. Centrist Dem Collin Peterson opposed the bill last year, but has said he’ll oppose a wholesale repeal because it’s simply a political vote.
And it is.
(Update: As expected, the Republican-led House voted Wednesday afternoon, mostly along party lines, to repeal the law.)
Policy-wise, the health reform repeal is about as inconsequential as one can call any bill that will surely sail through the House. That’s because it won’t ever come up in the Senate, and even if it did, it wouldn’t pass. Plus, President Obama would veto it and there aren’t even close to enough votes around to override a veto on this.
But politics isn’t just about policy. It’s about, well, politics. And on that metric, this may be one of the most important and consequential votes cast all year.
A political win-win, maybe
The health-care repeal vote will be seen as a win for both Cravaack and the DFL in the formative stages of the campaign for what is already the Democrats’ top targeted House seat in Minnesota and possibly the entire upper Midwest.
For Cravaack, it’s a chance to tick off a box as promise kept. DFLers, meanwhile, get a vote that backs up almost certain campaign ads blasting Cravaack for any and all things he just voted to repeal.
DFL chairman Brian Melendez gave what could be a campaign ad preview Wednesday in an op-ed for the Duluth News Tribune, the largest newspaper in Cravaack’s 8th District.
“Cravaack’s vote would deny coverage to children with existing conditions, cancel coverage when people get sick and limit the amount of care Minnesotans can receive — even if they need it,” Melendez charged.
And Cravaack had a response ready.
“This is such a bad bill on so many fronts that we have to repeal it right away,” Cravaack said. “There are good parts to the bill, but they’re buried so deep we can’t doggone get to them.”
That debate, the one Cravaack and Melendez are engaged in already, will undoubtedly be playing out in the 63 seats Republicans won from Democrats that the Dems hope to take back in 2012 — and with them, control of the House.
Right now, each side sees a win. In November 2012, only one side will.
Repeal, then replace
Republicans have been mindful since even before the health reform bill passed that it wouldn’t get repealed in one single vote — and that it would be mathematically impossible to do it in the next few years.
That’s why they came to this battle equipped with a Plan B.
“We aren’t going to just check the box off and say we had one vote and we’re going to move on to other topics,” Bachmann said Tuesday at a press conference outside the Capitol. “We’re staying full square behind the repeal of Obamacare and our commitment to defund it moving forward.”
“This is a deal they had to do because they made a campaign promise,” Peterson said of the GOP’s wholesale repeal efforts. “I’m not sure it’s the end of the world, they’ll do it and they’ll pass it and that’ll be the end of it — it won’t go anyplace in the Senate.
“Then hopefully they’ll go to a bill on a piecemeal basis, because if it does get fixed that’s how it’s going to get fixed.”
If today’s vote is all politics, Thursday’s vote — the Plan B — actually has a chance at fomenting actual policy. That’s when Republicans offer a measure to direct a set of committees, including the Education and the Workforce panel headed by Kline, to produce new legislation to replace the voted-down health reform law.
But serious policy is a topic for Thursday. Today’s all about the politics.