In the last couple of years, House Republicans have voted over and over to repeal the president's health care plan. It got to be routine. Not long ago, however, the Obamacare battle took a turn toward the bizarre.
The cause was the administration's decision to delay by one year the mandate requiring big businesses to provide health coverage for employees or pay a fine. The White House acted in response to complaints from business owners, who called the mandate burdensome.
So Republicans thought: What about all those individuals out there who believe the mandate requiring them to buy coverage or pay a fine is just as burdensome? As the GOP saw it, the White House listened to big business but ignored the little guy.
So Republicans came up with a two-part strategy that would, among other goals, sound out House Democrats' attitudes toward Obamacare less than three months before it is to become a reality in American life.
First, Republicans introduced a bill that would write into law what the president had already done by fiat -- that is, delay the employer mandate a year. That seemed unnecessary, and a little mischievous, but the serious point, according to one House GOP aide, was to emphasize that "the president can't just determine which laws he's going to follow and when he's going to follow them."
Even though it was largely moot, Obama took the move seriously enough to take the somewhat odd action of threatening to veto a bill that would duplicate his own policy. And when the White House argued that the postponement legislation "would cost millions of hard-working middle-class families the security of affordable health coverage and care they deserve" -- remember, the bill would simply codify an action Obama had already taken -- the White House's position veered into the surreal.
The House voted on July 17, and in the end 35 Democrats voted in favor of the president's delay, while 160 voted against it. It's hard to interpret exactly what that means, but it doesn't seem good for Obama.