I’m annoyed when a political messaging gains so much traction that many in the media start treating it as fact. A perfect example of this is how so many outlets are reporting that House Republicans just took their “50th vote to repeal Obamacare.” I’ve seen places including Washington Post, Chicago Sun Times, Salon, Talking Points Memo, and NBC News call what happened yesterday a vote to “repeal or “gut” the law.
The bill in question, H.R. 4118, would have delayed the individual mandate penalty for just one year. That is it. The CBO predicted it would have a relatively modest impact reducing the number who choose to sign up for insurance this year by roughly one million and reducing the deficit by $10 billion over the next five years. Claiming that is equivalent to repealing or gutting the Affordable Care Act is hyperbole.
If this bill would “repeal” Obamacare then by that same logic you would need to conclude Obama himself already “repealed” his signature law when he delayed the employer mandate by a year, a move which is causing a similar impact on enrollment.
Have the Republicans taken many votes to actually repeal or completely gut the law over the years? Yes, but this is not one of them. This was a vote about simply delaying one unpopular provision of the law so it could be used in campaign ads. Even if Obama signed it into law it wouldn’t make a significant difference. Modest delays that would still leave the law intact don’t equal repeal.
While Republicans are wasting everyone’s time on other doomed votes on the ACA, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t accurately describe what is actually taking place here.
Photo by jcolman under Creative Commons license