Capitol Idea: How Democrats Spent Repeal Day

While Republicans busied themselves Wednesday with a largely symbolic vote to repeal health care reform, Democrats were out talking about jobs.

The political message is unmistakable: conservatives may be occupied trying to refight old battles for partisan purposes, but Democrats are focused on delivering on the top priority for Americans.

No one expects the House vote to repeal the health care law to go anywhere, certainly not while Democrats continue to control the Senate and President Obama holds his veto at the ready.

Although the repeal vote may be a sop to the conservative base, it’s not at all clear there’s any wider political benefit. Although it’s true many oppose the reform law, few want it fully repealed which is the effect of Wednesday’s vote. A decent percentage of those against the reform law actually oppose it because they want it to go even further; i.e. they want a Medicare-for-all universal-coverage approach.

Few Americans even count health care as their top issue; most want politicians to be busy fixing the economy and working on creating jobs. So it’s no mistake that top Democrats were out Wednesday focused on just that.

Notably, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi traveled to meet with the United Auto Workers union, where she talked mostly about — you guessed it — jobs and the economy. “I come here today to tell the UAW that Democrats know our most important job is to fight for American jobs,” she declared.

Pelosi offered a lengthy discussion of the Democrats’ longstanding “Make It In America” agenda to revitalize U.S. manufacturing before even mentioning health care reform. Pelosi also ran down a list of actions that Democrats have already taken to create and preserve U.S. jobs, including legislation which helped save the American auto industry which ultimately provided taxpayers with $13.5 billion in profit with the recent General Motors stock offering. And when she did touch on health care reform, she was quick to mention the improvements the law will bring to the American economy. Of course, Speaker John Boehner contends that health reform is “job-killing,” but now we know that’s not even true.

Meanwhile, over on the Senate side, Majority Leader Harry Reid was happy to throw the words of Republican leaders back at them, noting that they were ignoring their own advice by focusing on repealing health care benefits over job growth, which even Boehner described as “the number one issue on the minds of our fellow citizens.” Reid also distributed an online news clip, which called manufacturing “the shining star of this recovery.”

Democrats seem content to let the Republicans have their day of repeal. They know what voters will remember is a much-trumpeted repeal vote that ultimately proved to be a waste of time, while Democrats were out working for them.

Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade. Capitol Idea is his regular column from Washington. This article first published as How Democrats Spent Repeal Day on Blogcritics.

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