The “Obamacare Repeal” Fade

Paul Singer is out with a fun piece about the first 100 or so bills introduced in the 113th Congress. No change from previous Congresses, really—the first people into the breach are the ones with doomed bills dear to their hearts, which they introduce every two years.

This, however, is a quiet change from the 112th: “Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., announced on Twitter that she had introduced the first bill of the 113th Congress to repeal Obamacare.” Bachmann introduced the same bill immediately after the Affordable Care Act passed, and she introduced it again in the 112th. But right now, a week after Bachmann introduced the bill, it has no co-sponsors. No one else has introduced an Obamacare repeal bill.

Compare that to 2010. There were nine repeal bills introduced in the 111th Congress, when they had no chance of passage, including one by U.S. Senate candidate Jerry Moran. (He won.)

Compare it to 2011. The new 112th Congress saw three repeal bills in addition to the “Repeal of the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act,” which was actually supported by Republican leadership, went through the committee process, got 187 co-sponsors, and got 245 votes. (Ironically, it ended up providing cover for a small group of conservative Democrats who wanted to re-emphasize their bona fides to Republican voters.)

What’s the reason for the fall-off? Republicans have gotten more strategic about Obamacare repeal and more realistic. They took, as part of the fiscal cliff deal, a couple of chunks out of the PPACA, most notably funding for the CLASS Act, which proved to be an unworkable premium support for at-home care. Early in November, John Boehner ticked off conservatives for suggesting that Obamacare repeal wouldn’t happen; he reversed himself by saying it would be “on the table” in cliff talks. But no backlash came when “on the table” meant “we’ll take a small piece out of it.” The era of flashy repeal stunts is over.