(Bloomberg) — As the U.S. Senate works to rewrite immigration policy, the House of Representatives is spending floor time on legislation that won’t become law, voting last week to repeal President Barack Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act.
The near party-line 229-195 vote marks the 37th time the House has voted to repeal or defund at least part of the law, and the third time the chamber voted to repeal the entire ACA.
On Friday the House considered a bill that would require the Securities and Exchange Commission to assess the costs of proposed regulations, which the White House said would be “burdensome and disruptive.” Earlier this month, the House passed a measure to ensure U.S. bondholders would be paid if Congress can’t agree on a plan to raise the nation’s debt limit.
House Republican leaders are filling the calendar with legislation that won’t pass the Senate in part because they see a political payoff in future months, when they’ll need members’ support for tough votes such as raising the debt ceiling and passing annual government spending bills.
“It’s a good strategy,” says Representative Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican. “What we’ve learned with new members last session is that if we want to unite we have to lay a foundation.”
“Our new members especially want us to go back to square one, what we stand for, what we believe in, what are we fighting for,” Brady says. “That all helps lead up to the tougher issues.”
Last week’s vote to repeal the ACA gave new House Republicans a chance to go on the record against it and provides ammunition for the 2014 midterm election, a year when the law’s main provisions will be implemented.
New House members and leaders of the Republican Study Committee, a group that promotes small government, have sought a vote on H.R. 45, to rescind the ACA, for months.
“Within the RSC we have been pushing since the beginning of this year to have a clean vote on the repeal of Obamacare,” says Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who leads the study committee.
“We have a pretty significant number of new members who have never had an opportunity to, on the record, with their vote, express their disdain for Obamacare,” says Representative Steve Womack, an Arkansas Republican.
Obama’s health care law, which seeks to extend insurance coverage to at least 30 million people, was passed by Congress with no Republican votes. Opponents say it will lead to higher taxes and insurance premiums and reduced delivery of health care.
Boehner told reporters Thursday that the repeal vote wasn’t a “waste of time” and that Republicans will continue working to “scrap the law in its entirety so we can focus on patient-centered reforms.” Boehner made his weekly remarks to reporters while standing next to a 7-foot, 3-inch stack of paper that Republicans said represented the regulations resulting from the law.
For Representative Tim Huelskamp, a Kansas Republican who often votes against his leaders, the repeal vote fulfills a promise made to get his vote earlier this year for a stopgap government-funding measure.
“It’s more than just a measure, a gesture,” Huelskamp says. “It is identifying what Republicans are for and what we are willing to do. We’re going to talk about the alternatives.”
A vote to rescind the health law will also help House Republicans push parts of their agenda. Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, last month had to cancel a vote on a bill to extend insurance coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions. The measure didn’t have enough support from his party, in part because some members viewed it as going against their goal of repeal.
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