It has become a truism that House Republicans have voted dozens and dozens of times -- at least 50 in all -- to repeal Obamacare. "They have been obsessed with repealing the Affordable Care Act," President Obama told a Democratic National Committee meeting in Washington last month. "You know what they say: 50th time is the charm. Maybe when you hit your 50th repeal vote, you will win a prize. Maybe if you buy 50 repeal votes, you get one free. We get it."
For more than a year, Democrats and their advocates in the press have been ridiculing the GOP's anti-Obamacare efforts. "The House Republicans have voted more than 30 times to repeal Obamacare," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in March 2013. "The House has wasted weeks voting more than 40 times to repeal Obamacare," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in October of last year. "If at first you don't succeed, try 50 times -- Republicans [are] holding a 50th vote to repeal Obamacare," MSNBC's Al Sharpton said last week. Many others have said similar things.
The only problem is, the truism isn't true. The House has actually voted to repeal Obamacare in its entirety six times. Certainly Democrats think that is six too many. But it is not 50, or even close to 50. The rest of the votes -- there have actually been 54 so far -- were votes that ranged from defunding measures that would have crippled Obamacare to delaying measures that would have put off some of the very same provisions in the law that President Obama has delayed unilaterally, to measures fixing portions of the law that passed both houses of Congress with bipartisan support and were signed by the president.
The basic story is that House Republicans have voted for repeal at a few key moments since Obamacare was signed into law, and also as part of the yearly budget process. "It's six times if you count the budget," says one House GOP source in an email. "First time was when we first took the House majority, once after the Supreme Court decision, and once this Congress. And then the budget ever year."
In addition, eight of the times Republicans have voted to "repeal" Obamacare have been instances in which Congress passed, and President Obama signed, for example, measures to repeal the 1099 tax reporting requirement; repeal the CLASS Act; reduce funding in the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which many lawmakers viewed as excessive; and other issues.
Of the other 40 or so anti-Obamacare measures passed by House Republicans, some were clearly efforts to gut the law while not actually repealing it. For example, in 2011 a measure known as the Rehberg Amendment, after former Rep. Denny Rehberg, would have "prohibited funding for any employee, officer, contractor or grantee of any department or agency funded under Labor & HHS to implement the health care provisions of Obamacare." Other measures would have forbidden funding for implementing the Obamacare exchanges, or for implementing the Independent Payment Advisory Board. Other measures would have repealed IPAB altogether. Or prevented the Internal Revenue Service from enforcing the law.
Still other House measures would have delayed the implementation of all of Obamacare by a year, or delayed the individual mandate by the same time. Others targeted the medical device tax. And still others went after more arcane areas of the law, like the provision for School Based Health Centers.
Some of the House measures now portrayed as votes to "repeal" Obamacare were actually entirely consistent with President Obama's wishes. For example, in July 2013, the House passed a bill to delay the implementation of the Obamacare employer mandate by one year. Of course, Obama himself had done the same thing by executive authority a short time before, and the House was trying to give the move a measure of congressional approval. Obama threatened to veto the measure, and it died in the Senate.
The bottom line is that Republicans have not voted to repeal Obamacare 30, or 40, or 50 times. Yes, they have kept up a steady stream of efforts to limit the law's reach and delay its implementation. And yes, Democrats opposed all of them, except when they didn't and allowed GOP-supported Obamacare changes to become law. And now, of course, the president is using his unilateral power to delay more and more parts of the law in a way that is consistent with some of the rejected GOP measures.
For the record, here is a list, provided by House GOP sources, of the first 49 Republican-passed Obamacare measures:
1. January 19, 2011 – House repealed Obamacare in its entirety. (H.R. 2)
2. February 19, 2011 –House passed the FY2011 continuing appropriations bill including several substantial bipartisan amendments that would severely limit the implementation of Obamacare. (H.R. 1)
3. The Rehberg Amendment #575: Prohibited funding for any employee, officer, contractor or grantee of any department or agency funded under Labor & HHS to implement the health care provisions of Obamacare.
4. The King Amendment #267: Provided that no funds in this Act may be may be used to implement Obamacare.
5. The King Amendment #268: Prohibited funding for the pay of officials who implement Obamacare.
6. The Emerson Amendment #83: Prohibited funding by the IRS to implement or enforce provisions on Obamacare related to the reporting of health insurance coverage.
7. The Price Amendment #409: Prohibited funding for implementing the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) provision.
8. The Burgess Amendment #200: Prohibited funding at the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO).
9. The Pitts Amendment #430: Prohibited funding for actions to specify or define, through regulations, guidelines, or otherwise, essential benefits as required in Obamacare.
10. The Gardner Amendment #79: Prohibited funding for implementing Exchanges.
11. The Hayworth Amendment #567: Prohibited funding for implementing IPAB.
12. March 3, 2011 – House repealed (signed into law) 1099 reporting requirements that placed a financial burden on small businesses and independent contractors. (H.R. 4)
13. April 13, 2011 – House repealed the PPHF that was riddled with wasteful, unaccountable spending. (H.R. 1217)
14. April 14, 2011 – House repealed (signed into law) “Free Choice Voucher” program, reduced funding for the CO-OP by $2.2 billion, provided new tools to fight implementation and ensured no increase in IRS funding to hire additional agents to enforce the individual mandate as part of the FY2011 continuing appropriations bill. (H.R. 1473)
15. April 14, 2011 – House directed the Senate to take a vote defunding all mandatory and discretionary spending in Obamacare. (H.Con.Res.35)
16. April 15, 2011 – House passed FY2012 budget which repealed and defunded Obamacare. (H.Con.Res.34)
17. May 3, 2011 – House eliminated ability for Secretary of Health and Human Services to have an unlimited tap on the U.S. Treasury related to government mandated health insurance exchanges. (H.R. 1213)
18. May 4, 2011 – House repealed provision that required $200 million of mandatory “slush" fund spending solely for construction for School-Based Health Centers. (H.R. 1214)
19. May 24, 2011 – House converted $230 million in mandatory spending for graduate medical education programs to discretionary spending, allowing teaching health centers to receive funding through the regular appropriations process with Congressional oversight. (H.R. 1216)
20. August 1, 2011 – House passed (signed into law) the Budget Control Act of 2011 that allowed another mechanism to cut Obamacare mandatory and discretionary spending. (S. 365)
21. October 13, 2011 – House passed the Protect Life Act that prevented funds in Obamacare (including tax credits) from being used to pay for abortion or abortion coverage and codified conscience protections. (H.R. 358)
22. November, 16 2011 – House required (signed into law) certain benefits to be included in the calculation of modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) for determining eligibility for certain health care programs under Obamacare. (H.R. 674)
23. December 13, 2011 – House passed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act that extended the “doc fix” through Obamacare subsidy recapture and reductions to the PPHF, among other provisions. (H.R. 3630)
24. December 16, 2011 – House rescinded (signed into law) $400 million from CO-OPs and $10 million in funds for IPAB (rationing board) in the FY2012 appropriations bill. The bill also reduced IRS funding by $305 million from FY2011 levels. (H.R. 2055)
25. February 1, 2012 – House repealed the CLASS Act, a microcosm for the problems in Obamacare (budget gimmick, insolvent, done behind closed doors and rushed into law, massive new unsustainable entitlement), which was used to disguise the short-term costs of the broader bill. (H.R. 1173)
26. February 17, 2012 – House passed (signed into law) the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act that cut $11.6 billion from Obamacare including $5 billion from the PPHF and recouped $2.5 billion in excess Medicaid funding via the “Louisiana Purchase”. (H.R. 3630)
27. March 22, 2012 – House repealed IPAB, a panel of 15 unelected and unaccountable government bureaucrats tasked with reducing Medicare costs through arbitrary cuts to providers, limiting access to care for seniors. (H.R. 5)
28. March 29, 2012 – House passed FY2013 budget which repealed and defunded Obamacare, ensuring that not a penny is spent on the government takeover of health care. (H.Con.Res.112)
29. April 27, 2012 – House prevented interest rate increases for certain student loans, offset by repealing the Obamacare PPHF. (H.R. 4628)
30. May 10, 2012 – House replaced harmful discretionary sequester cuts to our military and defense capabilities by defunding and repealing several Obamacare provisions including Medicaid Maintenance of Effort (MOE) requirements, among other provisions. (H.R. 5652)
31. June 7, 2012 – House repealed the medical device tax, limitations on reimbursement of the over-the-counter medications from tax-advantaged accounts for health care and the Exchange subsidy overpayments. (H.R. 436)
32. June 29, 2012 – House further reduced (signed into law) a Medicaid formula drafting error included in Obamacare’s “Louisiana Purchase” provision, clawing back $670 million as part of the Highway Conference bill. (H.R. 4348)
33. July 11, 2012 – House repealed Obamacare in its entirety in the wake of the Supreme Court decision to uphold the vast majority of the law. (H.R.6079)
34. December 20, 2012 – House replaced, for the second time, discretionary sequester cuts by defunding and repealing several Obamacare provisions including MOE requirements, among other provisions. (H.R. 6684)
35. January 1, 2013 – House passed (signed into law) the fiscal cliff deal which repealed the CLASS Act and rescinded all unobligated CO-OP funds saving $2.3 billion, among other provisions. (H.R. 8)
36. March 21, 2013 – House passed FY2014 budget which repealed and defunded Obamacare. (H.Con.Res.25)
37. May 16, 2013 – House repealed Obamacare in its entirety as a stand-alone bill. (H.R. 45)
38. July 17, 2013 – House delayed the implementation of the Obamacare employer mandate for one-year. (H.R. 2667)
39. July 17, 2013 – House delayed the implementation of the Obamacare individual mandate for one-year. (H.R.2668)
40. August 2, 2013 – House prevented the IRS from implementing or enforcing any portion of Obamacare. (H.R.2009)
41. September 12, 2013 – House prevented fraudulent Obamacare subsidy claims by requiring accurate verification systems to be in place before subsidies are dispersed. (H.R. 2775)
42. September 20, 2013 – House fully defunded Obamacare through prohibiting discretionary and mandatory spending and rescinding all unobligated balances as part of the short-term FY2014 continuing appropriations bill. (H.J.Res. 59)
43. September 29, 2013 –House permanently repealed the onerous job killing 2.3% excise tax on medical devices as part of the short-term FY2014 continuing appropriations bill (Amendment #1 to H.J.Res 59)
44. September 29, 2013 – House delayed all of Obamacare for one year as part of the short-term FY2014 continuing appropriations bill (Amendment #2 to H.J.Res 59)
45. September 30, 2013 – House delayed the individual mandate for one year and required the President, Vice President, and Cabinet Secretaries to join Members of Congress and their staff in purchasing coverage through Exchanges without access to employer provided subsidy as part of the short-term FY2014 continuing appropriations bill (Amendment to H.J.Res 59)
46. October 17, 2013 – House required (signed into law) accurate income verification systems be put in place before Obamacare exchange subsidies are dispersed as part of the short-term FY2014 continuing appropriations bill (H.R. 2775).
47. November 15, 2013 – House allowed American’s to keep their 2013 plan without being penalized under the Obamacare individual mandate (H.R. 3350)
48. January 10, 2014 –House required notification of individuals of breaches of personally identifiable information through Obamacare Exchanges (H.R. 3811)
49. January 16, 2014 – House required transparency in the operation and status of Obamacare’s health exchanges through weekly reports on key metrics to decision makers in Congress and the states (H.R. 3362)
The five most recent measures, numbers 50 to 54, were passed in recent days and included a delay of Obamacare's individual mandate and other provisions.