Eric Cantor is no longer a member of the House of Representatives, but the former Majority Leader takes some credit for the recent House vote undoing parts of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.
After Republicans regained the House of Representatives in 2010, there were dozens of votes to repeal part or all of Obamacare, with most of them passing. The Senate approved a few of those bills as well, sending them to President Obama for a dead-certain veto.
Since Republicans knew Obama would never sign a bill killing his biggest achievement, why did they vote over and over on go-nowhere legislation? “Republicans had … a very, very powerful position that people around the country began to learn about,” Cantor, now vice chairman of investment bank Moelis & Co., tells Yahoo Finance in the video above. “Without having said repetitively, we are for sure and serious about this, perhaps it wouldn’t have been the powerful tool it was in the Trump election.”
There’s also the matter of voting freely for a bill you know will never become law, and will never have adverse consequences legislators will have to account for. “We never had the driving force of a president we knew would sign the repeal bill,” Cantor says. “There wasn’t the reality of playing with a live ball.”
There is now, of course, since President Trump is so eager to repeal Obamacare that he pushed House Speaker Paul Ryan to revive a repeal bill that failed in March. Trump prevailed, of course, with the House passing a modified bill that would eliminate the requirement for every individuals to have health insurance and make other important changes to Obamacare.
That bill’s fate in the Senate remains uncertain, given that there’s widespread opposition to provisions that would make it harder for poor adults and people with pre-existing conditions to obtain insurance. Leaders of healthcare firms have spoken out against the bill with unusual fervor. A March poll by Quinnipiac found that just 17% of Americans favor the repeal bill.
Cantor left Congress in 2014, after a surprise electoral loss in the primary election in Virginia, his home state. These days, from his perch in the private sector, he doesn’t sound envious of Republicans in Congress who got what they wished for. “As the president said, it’s complicated,” Cantor says. “We have to remember, Obamacare took a long time to pass. It’s going to take more time than what I think people had originally expected.”
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Rick Newman is the author of four books, including Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.