Health Care Repeal? Don't Hold Your Breath

Rep. Mike Pence (GOP, Indiana), seen here in June 2001
Rep. Mike Pence.

At the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit in Washington today, Rep. Mike Pence, a potential 2012 GOP presidential contender, told an audience of social conservatives that "House Republicans will not restuntil we repeal 'Obamacare,' lock, stock and barrel."

But the reality is that a repeal of "Obamacare" - the health care overhaul passed earlier this year - is not likely anytime soon, despite the calls for repeal from Pence and other Republicans.

Here's why: To repeal the health care law, both the House and the Senate must pass bills to do so. That takes a simple majority in the both chambers, but there would likely be a filibuster in the Senate - which means it would take 60 votes to get the bill through.

It would them go to President Obama, who would veto it, sending it back to Congress. To override that veto, it would take a two thirds majority in both chambers.

Think about that. While a House bill to repeal the law is plausible following expected Republican gains in the midterms, it's hard to imagine 60 votes for such a bill in the Senate, even if Republican pick up ten seats (basically their best-case scenario) and earn a narrow majority. And a post-veto 2/3rds majority in both chambers is extremely hard to imagine ever being reached.

Now, a repeal situation is possible after the 2012 presidential election if Republicans see massive electoral success in the next two elections and find themselves with the presidency, a comfortable majority in the House and the ability to attract 60 votes in the Senate. But even the most optimistic Republicans are not counting on such an outcome, and despite the rhetoric, they are focused behind closed doors on limiting, not reversing, the bill.

They can do so not by repealing the bill but by defunding it. Congress will have to pay the cost of implementing the bill each year; Republicans could just not include that money in their annual appropriations bills.

Of course, they need to control Congress to do that - and while the House is well within their sites, the odds are at this point against them taking the ten seats they need for the Senate.

In his speech Friday, Pence addressed doubts about "those who said it'd be difficult to 'repeal and replace'" the health care bill.

"It's a two step process," he said. "First we repeal the Pelosi Congress in 2010 and then we replace the Obama administration in 2012."

Here's a bit more from Pence's speech, this section focused on social issues, via Politico's Mike Allen:

"Barack Obama is the most pro-abortion president in American history and his agenda on the family must be opposed. ... Those who would have us ignore the battle being fought over life, marriage and religious liberty, have forgotten the lessons of history. America's darkest moments have come when economic arguments trumped moral principles. ... We are at our strongest when fiscal and social conservatives are united. When voices from either camp advocate the removal of the other from the room, we are weakened. Let me be clear on this point: Victory comes when we stand together, fighting arm in arm for fiscal responsibility, a strong national defense and traditional moral values."

Brian Montopoli is a political reporter for You can read more of his posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.