Repealing Obamacare: Why Mitt Romney and the Republicans Will Come Up Short


Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, Republicans from Mitt Romney to Speaker John Boehner have pledged to repeal the ACA, which is set for full implementation by 2015. Until the decision was announced, it seemed almost unthinkable that the Supreme Court and its constructionist majority would deem a law giving Congress the power to mandate commerce a valid exercise of its constitutional powers. Four justices felt that the individual mandate, which requires every American to purchase health insurance or pay a fine, fell within the ability of Congress to regulate interstate commerce. Five justices did not. Of those five, however, one—Chief Justice John Roberts—agreed with the Obama administration’s argument that the fine actually constitutes a tax, thus giving Congress cover to enact the mandate (and the law as a whole) under its power to tax. And so, in the end this otherwise conservative court affirmed the legality of President Obama's signature piece of legislation.

From here, Republicans have virtually no viable options (at least in the near term) to prevent or stall the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. But that hardly means they aren’t going to try, or at least exploit it for political gain.

Within moments of the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the ACA, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R – VA) announced that during the week of July 9, the House of Representatives will hold a vote to repeal the ACA. This will be the 30th attempt by the House to repeal either part or all of the ACA. While the House will undoubtedly vote to repeal the ACA, from there the measure will go nowhere. The Democratic-controlled senate will certainly not vote to repeal. Furthermore, Obama would have to sign the legislation repealing his biggest legislative achievement. Thus, in order to realize the two and a half year old conservative dream of fully repealing the ACA, the Republicans would have to garner sweeping electoral victories this November.

That would mean that in addition to holding the House and Mitt Romney defeating Obama in the race for the White House, Republicans would have to take the senate and by a filibuster-proof majority. This is because for many major pieces of legislation, a simple majority vote no longer suffices for passage in the senate. According to the rules of the chamber, before a vote takes place on a bill, the senate has to vote on whether to have a  vote. This is called cloture, and it requires 60 votes out of 100 (or three-fifths) to invoke. With the GOP controlling only 47 seats at the moment, Republicans would have to gain a virtually unprecedented 13 senate seats in November to secure a filibuster proof majority. Polls on these races indicate nothing of the sort will happen.

None of this is to say that conservatives won’t try their damnedest to accomplish this Herculean political feat, or make a good show of it, anyway. Brother energy tycoons Charles and David Koch have thrown themselves at the forefront of the battle. Americans for Prosperity, which they fund, has already launched a $9 million television ad campaign specifically attacking the ruling. On July 8, David Koch will hold a $50,000 per plate fundraiser at his Long Island mansion for Romney, who has also pledged to repeal “Obamacare,” the model for which was the health care plan Romney signed into law as governor of Massachusetts. And it was recently announced that casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who had inexplicably poured tens of millions of dollars into the ridiculous presidential campaign of Newt Gingrich, has pledged $10 million to the Kochs’ efforts to defeat Democratic candidates. Even still, the Democrats have their own well-oiled fundraising operations, as Obama has raised more money than Romney. 

While it’s conceivable the Democrats could lose the White House, the senate, and fail to take back the House, they will certainly not lose the 13 senate seats that would be required for a GOP filibuster-proof majority. That is, barring a party-wide collapse of epic proportions.