Going through the motions on repeal

GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS ON REPEAL…. At least we know what one of the first bills to receive a vote will be in the new House.

Incoming House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said the new Republican-controlled House will look to repeal Democratic health care overhaul legislation before President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address later this month.

“We have 242 Republicans,” Upton said. “There will be a significant number of Democrats I think that will join us.”

Maybe so. But there’s almost certainly a realization on everyone’s part that House Republicans are doing this for show. If passed, their repeal measure can’t pass the Senate, and wouldn’t overcome a veto. The GOP wants to pursue repeal just so they can say they pursued repeal. This isn’t going to be policymaking from responsible, problem-solving lawmakers; this is going to be a public-relations stunt. We can probably expect quite a bit of this over the next two years — Republicans are great at campaigning, but tend to have trouble governing once the election has come and gone.

But I continue to think there are opportunities here for Democrats. To hear Upton tell it, one of the very first votes House Republicans will cast in the new Congress is raising taxes on small businesses. And adding over a trillion dollars to the debt. And taking away health care coverage for millions. And making seniors pay more for prescription drugs while weakening Medicare. And allowing insurers to discriminate against children with pre-existing conditions.

To be sure, Republicans won’t put it this way, but their rhetoric is irrelevant against the reality — by voting for repeal of the Affordable Care Act, they’re voting for the consequences that come with the law’s elimination.

If Dems fail to go on the offensive on this, they’re missing an opportunity.