Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

What does GOP have in common with Joe DiMaggio? Not much

Back in 1941, Joe DiMaggio, "The Yankee Clipper", got a hit in 56 consecutive games, a number that still stands today as one of the more revered and perhaps unbreakable records in baseball.

And as of yesterday, House Republicans have now gone to bat 56 consecutive times in an effort to repeal all or part of ObamaCare, and 56 times they have passed it. I'm sure we ought to be impressed by their heroic consistency, except for the fact that every one of those votes has been absolutely meaningless. They can't pass immigration reform, they can't fix transportation funding, but they can certainly surrender time and again to this peculiar, collective obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Afterward, House Rules Committee Chair Pete Sessions of Texas repeated the mantra that he and his colleagues now know by heart, having repeated it so often:

"Repealing ObamaCare is a top priority for Republicans in Congress. Today, the House took a stand against its job-killing, costly regulations."

If you do the math, they have taken that stand an average of 11 times a year in the almost five years since President Obama signed the measure into law, all with no effect whatsoever. It's a record of futility that by rights ought to be just as unbreakable as DiMaggio's -- well, except for the fact that there will probably be a 57th vote and a 58th vote....

Because that's what they do.

Of course, we're told that this time it's different. This time, after five years, the repeal legislation voted on by the House finally includes the long-promised plan to replace ObamaCare.

OK, not a plan, exactly. You might charitably call it a plan to have a plan, if by "plan" you mean a list of 12 great-sounding goals with no idea how to attain them. For example, the plan that House committee chairs have been instructed to create must accomplish the following, among other things:

  • "lower health care premiums through increased competition and choice;"
  • "provide people with pre-existing conditions access to affordable health coverage;"
  • "increase the number of insured Americans;"
  • "do not accelerate the insolvency of entitlement programs or increase the tax burden on Americans."

That ought to be some plan. They're going to eliminate ObamaCare and all the taxes that finance it. Then they're going to increase the number of Americans with health insurance above and beyond those insured through ObamaCare, they're going to lower health-insurance premiums, they're going to provide affordable coverage to those with pre-existing conditions AND they're going to do all that with no new taxes.

In short, after five years and 56 votes, there's still no cause to take them seriously.

ObamaCare exists today because during the years of Republican control of Washington, the GOP made no effort to address annual double-digit increases in the cost of health insurance (now down to 2-3 percent), no effort to help the increasing number of Americans without insurance (a trend now completely reversed), no effort to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions (now covered through ObamaCare), and no effort to slow health-care costs in general.

To hear them tell it, we were helpless against those trends. It turns out we weren't.

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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.