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The 39th time was not the charm on Obamacare repeal

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Remember when the 2012 presidential election ended the debate over repealing the Affordable Care Act? To a degree that is truly comical, congressional Republicans didn't get the memo.

The Senate on Friday rejected another GOP attempt to repeal President Obama's healthcare law.

An amendment to the Senate budget resolution from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) failed on a 45-54 vote on Friday. Cruz's amendment would have repealed the Affordable Care Act and encouraged patient-centered reforms to reduce costs.

Senate Republicans knew Cruz's amendment was pointless, and knew it wouldn't pass, but literally every GOP senator voted for it anyway -- just because.

At this point, some of you may be wondering, "Exactly how many Obamacare repeal votes are we up to now?" By one estimate, the new total is 39 times.

Ted Cruz pushed a nearly identical measure a week ago, and according to the Washington Post, that was repeal vote #35. Earlier this week, the House voted on a Republican Study Committee budget plan that eliminates the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, which was #36. Yesterday, House Republicans voted for Paul Ryan's budget plan, which also eliminates most of the health care law (#37), and then last night, Senate Republicans voted on the same plan (#38).

That makes this morning's Senate vote the 39th time congressional Republicans have voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, in whole or in part, just over the last two years.

Note, the point here is not to just point and laugh at the nonsensical GOP approach to policymaking -- though I suppose that's part of the fun -- but to appreciate a larger substantive dynamic.

To reiterate what we discussed last week, this new Congress has only been in session for two months. At least in theory, members of both parties should be hard at work at, you know, governing. There are all kinds of problems in need of policymakers' attention, and pointless vanity exercises about repealing a law that isn't going anywhere may make Republicans feel warm inside, but they're clearly not serious.

There is a certain irony underscoring recent events. To listen to Republican rhetoric on Capitol Hill is to hear a series of complaints about President Obama: he's not being "serious" enough about getting things done; he's too focused on electoral considerations; he's not "leading" in a way the far-right finds satisfactory; he's reaching out to his rivals on the other side of the aisle but he doesn't really mean it.

But it's against this backdrop that Republicans vote, over and over again, to repeal a health care law they know won't be repealed. They do so, in part because they have a radicalized base that expects near-constant pandering, in part because some of their leaders have broader ambitions and see these tactics as useful, and in part because these votes just seem to help Republicans feel better about themselves.

We can debate the relative merits of these motivations, but can we also keep this in mind the next time we hear whining about the White House not being "serious" enough about constructive policymaking?