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On the Third Hand: Futile

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For professional purposes, I have no opinion about whether the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) or most of its parts should exist, or whether Congress ought to overturn the presidential veto of H.R. 3762, which would repeal many key commercial health insurance provisions of PPACA.

I cover PPACA news as hard news. I like to get clicks on those articles from people with perspectives all across the political spectrum. I hate the idea of being one of those boring people who has to open an email from party headquarters to find out what I’m supposed to think each day.

And, inside my own head, I can think of all sorts of great arguments for and against all sorts of specific PPACA provisions. 

I respect the people who worked hard to try make PPACA a law that could help improve people’s health care, and their access to health care, and I respect the people who think a lot of it is wrongheaded. And, regardless of whether PPACA is good or bad for anyone else, I care deeply about the possibility that it could be bad, or good, for people in the insurance community. 

I firmly believe that readers who are making an honest effort to help people get suitable insurance against health care risk are doing a wonderful thing and ought to be supported.

Those disclaimers aside: I think the folks attacking Republican congressional leaders for sending H.R. 3762 to President Obama have been more defeatist than they have to be, and, possibly, less wily than they ought to be.

On the one hand, yes, Obama vetoed the bill as soon as he got it. Supporters of the bill need to get two-thirds majorities in the House and the Senate to overturn the veto. As I write this, it seems highly unlikely that supporters can get the two-thirds majorities.

On the other hand, many Republicans in Congress ran saying they would try to do what they could to repeal or cripple PPACA. Why shouldn’t they at least show the people who voted for them that they did what they could do to at least get a package of anti-PPACA legislation to Obama’s desk, and give Obama a fair chance to see (what PPACA opponents believe to be) the light and sign it into law?

At least PPACA opponents in Congress can now say that they did their best. They didn’t lie down and accept as a given the proposition that PPACA is cast in iron.

On the third hand, maybe the veto of this bill, or of somewhat more Democrat-friendly PPACA bills, could weaken the cohesion of congressional Democrats.

Democrats hold 188 of the 435 seats in the House. They need 143 votes to block attempts to overturn a veto.

In the Senate, Democrats and independents allied with the Democrats hold 46 seats. They need 40 votes to keep an effort to overturn a veto from coming up for a vote.

In other words: Making Obama veto a bill gives the 45 most cantankerous House Democrats and the six most cantankerous Senate Democrats (or independents) a chance to holler at Obama, or to ask him for favors.

These days, it seems as if the congressional Democrats with the most interest in standing up to Obama are the ones who think the current PPACA system is too nice to health insurers.

By sending Obama doomed PPACA-related bills, fervently anti-PPACA Republicans may be empowering lawmakers who are in sync with Bernie Sanders to nudge the Obama administration’s PPACA regulators further to the left.

That may be bad for health insurance professionals who want whatever health programs that exist to work as well as possible, under the circumstances, but it may be good for Republicans who want voters to have clear distinctions between Republican health policy and Democratic health policy in mind in November.

See also:

Health policy shaper: Congress can get things done

Senate Republicans plan to repeal PPACA with 51 votes

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