Health care repeal effort: Worth the time?

(CBS News) WASHINGTON - The House of Representatives voted to repeal the president's health care law Wednesday.

It is the 33rd time that House Republicans have done that, even though they know the repeal won't pass the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats. Even if it did, the President would veto it.

When there's urgent business before the House, why spend so much time voting to repeal the law over and over again?

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House Republicans have now held so many repeal votes, lawmakers are losing track.

"Here we are again voting for the 31st time," said Rep. Steny Hoyer, a Republican from Maryland. Another representative noted that it was the 32nd.

In fact, Tuesday's vote makes it the 33rd time the House has tried to repeal all or part of President Obama's health care law.

A CBS News tally found the Republican repeal effort has taken up at least 80 hours on the House floor, or two full work weeks, since 2010.

"Obamacare is a massive tax hike on the middle class," said Texas Republican Lamar Smith.

But Wednesday's measure will suffer the same fate as the other full repeal efforts, which sailed through the Republican-controlled House but died, predictably, in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

"I say shame," said John Dingell, a Democratic congressman from Michigan. "You're wasting the time of the American people. You're wasting the time of Congress."

And time is precious on Capitol Hill, where House leaders have scheduled only 42 more working days between now and the end of the year when critical deadlines loom. The Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire then for everyone, and steep across-the-board spending cuts will kick in.

There's been little attempt to seek common ground on those issues or on funding the government, which must be done by October, or on tackling the nation's 8.2 percent unemployment rate.

Virginia's Eric Cantor, the second highest ranking House Republican, spearheaded today's repeal measure.

When asked why they keep holding these debates and repeal votes, Cantor said Republicans "want to try and get it right."

"Again the American people have rejected Obamacare," Cantor said. "You know they don't want Washington telling them what kind of health care they should have."

Is the GOP proposing something else? "Absolutely," Cantor said. "All along the process during which Obamacare was being discussed here in Capitol Hill we posited an alternative."

Republicans did release a short outline of their health care priorities in 2009, but they haven't released any formal replacement for the president's health care law and have no immediate plans to do so. One of their main goals with all these votes is to tie vulnerable Democrats to an unpopular law in an election year.

  • Nancy Cordes On Twitter»

    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.

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