This week, the Senate voted on an amendment that would repeal the health care law.
As would be expected the amendment failed along party lines. Forty-seven Republicans voted for it, and 51 Democrats voted against it.
No surprise there.
The repeal effort failed.
Or did it?
On the surface the vote seemingly has no effect on the fight to repeal the health care law. But the vote yesterday accomplished, or at least set in place, several things that could help to overturn Obamacare in the future through legislative avenues.
First, Senate Republicans stood firm with the principles of the teaparty and other health care opponents in doing all that they could to repeal the health care law. Yes, everyone knew from the beginning that, barring a legislative miracle, the amendment to repeal didn’t stand a chance of passing. But the vote to repeal was noticed by many conservatives and duly noted.
The Senate is different from the House in so much as its members aren’t up for reelection as often. So, for Senate Republicans, even the moderates, to take the views of conservatives seriously shows that they do care what the people think, even when it doesn’t help or hurt their political power.
Second, Republicans are still showing a unified front on this issue.
This may seem like a “gimme,” but for Mitch McConnell to hold everyone together, unified on an issue like health care, is a small feat in itself.
Sure, there are many people in favor of repeal, but there are also many people who don’t want the law changed. The fact that moderates stood against Obamacare speaks volumes.
Third, Democratic senators from conservative states had to cast career-ending votes.
What seemed like a rote, party-line vote on an amendment to repeal Obamacare was likely the final nail in the political coffin of Democratic moderates. This is possibly the most important repercussion of yesterday’s vote, because with only a six-vote Democrat majority in the Senate, a four-senator swing in 2012 towards the GOP would give them control of both chambers of Congress.
Who are the vulnerable Democrats that voted against repeal?
Ben Nelson of Nebraska. The senator infamous for what became known as the “Cornhusker kickback” would have a hard time getting reelected regardless of how he voted. A recent poll showed Nelson down by double digits to one possible Republican opponent while trailing another by five points. And that was before yesterday’s vote.
Claire McCaskill of Missouri. When you’re from a state that actually voted to, in essence, nullify Obamacare with a 71 percent majority, it’s pretty safe to say that a vote against repeal isn’t a very good career move.
Jim Webb of Virginia. He barely beat out Republican George Allen for his seat in 2006. And now, in a much more hostile environment towards Democrats, a vote against repeal will certainly be used by his GOP opponent in the upcoming elections.
Joe Manchin of West Virginia. The newly-elected senator ran as a conservative Democrat in last year’s special election. He has stated in the past that he wants to fix or repeal Obamacare. Now he has a vote for the health care law on his record, which will likely hurt him in 2012.
Jon Tester of Montana. The man who only won his senate race last time around because of a third-party candidate is facing a red state in 2012 with this pro-Obamacare vote staining his record. Not a good recipe for a Democratic victory in Montana.
Now will these five senators fall in 2012 because of their anti-repeal votes?
Well, not necessarily, but their continued support for Obamacare contrasted with a unified GOP caucus against Obamacare could be enough to give Republicans control of the Senate in two years.
So, despite the fact that nothing changed this week when the final roll was called of 47 in favor of repeal and 51 against, this vote could be the very event that helps hand the power in the senate over to Republicans in 2012.
Politics isn’t all about the flashy votes that impact the whole nation.
Often it’s the seemingly unimportant votes that end up making a difference.
(Elijah Friedeman, author of The Millennial Perspective, is the grandson of Janice Friedeman, Great Bend. His columns can also be heard on his father, Matt Friedeman’s, radio program on American Family Radio.)