ABC-6 Reporter Mark Curtis: “The Sunday Political Brunch” October 6, 2013

by ABC6 Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis

mcurtis@abc6.com

(Providence,
Rhode Island) – I always tell my
students, and classes where I guest lecture, “In politics, math is as important
as ideology!” I tell them if they take nothing else away from the class, that
lesson will be the most useful to them in careers in both politics and media. I
thought of it a lot this week as the government shut down and the fight over
Obama Care marched on:

“In Sum” – My theorem about math and ideology boils down to
this: you can pass any law – good or bad – if you have the votes. You can
repeal any law – good or bad – if you have the votes.

“The Construct” – The House of Representatives has 435
voting members. Republicans control the lower chamber of Congress with 232
members, to 200 Democrats, with three vacancies. The U.S. Senate has 100
members with 54 caucusing with the Democrats and 46 Republicans. So Democrats
control the Senate, and Republicans control the House. That makes legislating
difficult because any bill must pass both chambers with the exact same
language, in order the get to the President's desk.

“Obama Care Review” – In late 2009, the U.S. Senate passed
what's come to be known as Obama Care, with all 58 Democrats and two
independents voting yes, and 39 Republicans voting no (with one abstention).
The House vote was 219 to 212, with all Republicans voting no. Simply put,
Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress back then, and had enough votes
– “the math” – to get their “ideology” (health reform) passed into law and the President
signed it two days later. The bottom line was that Obama Care became law without
a single House or Senate Republican voting “yes.” 

“The Backlash” – At the time, the public was about equally
split on health care reform, depending on which poll you read. When many
Members of Congress admitted they did not read most of the two-thousand page
bill, there was a public outcry. Many people felt Obama Care was passed too
hastily, by an ill-informed Congress. People vowed to get even at the polls and
in November 2010, Republicans were swept back into control of the House, and
narrowed their minority margin in the Senate. Many GOP candidates promised to
repeal the new health care law. 

“Today's Math”- Republicans have the votes to repeal Obama
Care in the House (and have voted to do so dozens of times). But they don't
have enough votes in the Senate. In short, they have a math problem. 

“The Reality” – Republicans have a good chance of holding
control of the House in the 2014 midterm elections and they have a very
realistic chance of winning back control of the Senate. So in theory, if they
control all of Congress in January 2015, they will then have the votes to
repeal the health care reform act. Except they still have one big problem:
President Obama would veto the bill. 

“The Override Math” – Assuming a Presidential veto,
Republicans could only repeal Obama Care by overriding the veto. That requires
two-thirds of both the House and Senate. A simple majority won't do. That means
the GOP needs to win 67 Senate seats, and 290 House seats. That's a tall order,
and rare that we've had those kinds of margins on either side. I should mention
that 34 House Democrats voted against Obama Care, so assuming those votes are
still there, Republicans still need to win 254 seats, for an override. Even in
the historic upheaval year of 1994, when the Republicans gained 54 seats and
the majority, they still only had 230 House members in total. 

“The Odds” – As we've already seen this week, Republicans do
not have enough votes in the current Congress to repeal Obama Care. And, even
if they win both houses of Congress next year, the chances of repealing Obama
Care are very minute, because of a Presidential veto. Their only realistic shot
to repeal the health care law is to maintain control of both houses of Congress
in the 2016 elections, and also win the White House that year. Then they avoid
the veto threat and only need a simply majority of both houses of Congress to
repeal. It's a plausible possibility. 

“The Clock” – Assuming the above scenario plays out in 2017,
Obama Care will have then been in full effect for three years. If many people
like it, and it's running with few glitches, there may be no stomach in
Congress to repeal it. On the other hand, if there are all kinds of
bureaucratic problems, and health care rationing fueling more public discord,
the law could, in fact, be repealed. A lot rides on public satisfaction or
dissatisfaction. So the health care reform fight is not over, and the most
important next date on the calendar is January 20, 2017. Opponents of Obama
Care may not like to hear that, but as I keep repeating, “In politics, math is
as important as ideology!” 

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