At a Wednesday panel organized by the Heritage Foundation, conservative Republicans lamented that it's been too long since they had the opportunity to vote to wipe out the Affordable Care Act in its entirety -- and that the newest members haven't had the chance yet.
"We need to get a vote on full repeal, and I've asked leadership for this. I'm a cosponsor of Michele Bachmann's bill ... that just goes straight at it for full repeal," said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the chairman of the influential and deeply conservative Republican Study Committee. "We need to continue fighting for repeal. We need a clean vote on repeal."
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) urged leadership to hold a repeal vote so freshman members can serve up the same anti-Obamacare talking points for their conservative constituents that more senior Republicans enjoy.
"If you're a freshman -- the guys who've been up here the last year, we can go home and say listen, we voted 36 different times to repeal or replace Obamacare. Tell me what the new guys are supposed to say," he said. "We haven't had a repeal or replace vote this year."
"We have not had a chance as freshmen to do that," said first-term Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL). "Even if it's just symbolic -- and even if we understand that process-wise we are not going to be able to say, okay we want repeal, it's done, and it's over. But this is the issue that so many people around the country who love the Republican Party are frustrated with."
Indeed, the Republican-led House hasn't voted this year on full repeal of Obamacare. It voted some three dozen times to repeal, dismantle or defund the health care law in 2011 and 2012. But after the GOP's electoral drubbing last November, party leaders are inclined to smooth out their rough edges and stop picking symbolic, contentious battles they know they cannot win.
Unfortunately for them there remains a huge appetite on the right for Republicans to pull out all the stops against Obamacare, regardless of what it means for the GOP's favorability, and conservative members don't have an answer for them. The House conservatives voiced their frustrations hours before an expected vote on GOP-backed legislation to transfer funds from one part of Obamacare to another -- which they helped quash.
"For freshmen who haven't had a chance to vote against Obamacare or to defund it -- the proposal today would expand a portion of Obamacare for a short period of time," said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS). "Now our first vote on Obamacare will be failed part of the program that's come in drastically over cost. ... It's not going anywhere in the Senate but it's sending a clear message to our base that's going to confuse the heck out of them."
"That's a nonstarter for me," said Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI).
Sure enough, the conservative rebellion scuttled the leadership-backed bill as Republicans received no help from Democrats. GOP leaders cancelled the vote at the last minute.