Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Raasch: In Obamacare Repeal Debate, a Lack of Institutional Memory

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Raasch: In Obamacare Repeal Debate, a Lack of Institutional Memory

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * When Congress returns from its July 4 break next week to confront the question again of what Republicans will do on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, one little-mentioned factor will continue to be at play.

Despite all the rhetoric about entrenched careerist politicians in Washington, there is a paucity of institutional memory when it comes to the health care debate.

Although the controversial act known as Obamacare was passed just seven years ago, less than half of today's members of the U.S. House cast a vote on the bill. Half the Senate has turned over since the 2010 passage of Obamacare. Fourteen of them were in the House when the bill passed in 2010, including Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

Why is this important?

* The rate of congressional turnover gives context to the effect of the 2010 vote on the politics of this decade, and on the makeup of the current Congress. It should come as a warning signal for congressional Republicans who are trying to pass repeal-and-replace with only Republican votes.

In every election since Obamacare's passage, Republicans have attacked that Democrats-only vote to pass a bill that has ensured millions of Americans not previously covered, but has also had problems with rising premiums and deductibles, insurance company withdrawals from state exchanges and lack of participation from some key demographic groups, including young people.

Over the last four elections, Republicans have gone from a minority of 179 seats in the 435-member House to a robust majority of 240 currently. Democrats have 193 seats, and two are vacant.

The Senate has gone from a 59-41 Democrat majority at the beginning of the Obamacare debate in 2009 to a 52-48 Republican majority today.

* The rate of turnover in Congress dilutes the memory of that intensely partisan debate in 2009 and 2010, during which President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats facing united Republican opposition decided to pass legislation overhauling a major segment of the U.S. economy on a party-line vote.

Now Republicans, in trying to repeal and replace Obamacare, appear willing to go down that same path, from the right side of the political spectrum. …

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