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Maybe the 50th time will be the charm?

Since 2011, when Republicans won control of the U.S. House of Representatives, that body has voted 45 times to repeal, defund, delay or otherwise delimb the national health-care law.

The most recent was a few hours before midnight on Monday. Only this time, when it was rejected or ignored by the U.S. Senate just like the 44 times before it, the federal government was forced to partially shut down.

Is this shutdown a big deal? Not really, unless you’re a federal employee. An estimated 10,000 Joint Base Lewis-McChord workers were told to “stop working, shut down and go home.” So to them it may turn into a genuine crisis if it drags on.

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But for most of the rest of us, it’s more a head-shaking spectacle. Visitors now are being told to pack up and get out of the campgrounds in national parks — including being evicted from $175-a-night rooms at the famed Lake Crescent Lodge outside Port Angeles. And this is related to national health-care reform … how?

The first 44 votes against the 3-year-old law were obsessive enough — especially when the 2012 elections made clear Republicans weren’t going to get their way, at least for now. But to shut off all these unrelated functions of government over the issue is borderline pathological.

What do you call it when someone does the same thing over and over expecting a different result? Well, in GOP politics they’ve rebranded that to “standing your ground.”

Think of all the debacles in recent years that Congress didn’t find momentous enough to warrant a torch-the-joint battle like this. There was the trillion dollars and 4,400-plus U.S. lives spent looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. There were budget squabbles over this, but even war-gone-wrong was never considered shutdown-worthy.

Or there’s how we bailed out the big banks for wrecking the national economy and then squirmed as they handed out fat bonuses with our money. Nobody went to the mat on that one, either.

No, what finally brings the whole political system to DEFCON 1 is … health care for poor people.

Now I get that the Affordable Care Act isn’t beloved. And Republicans are probably right to be skeptical of parts of the law, such as its potential effects on smaller businesses. The other day I talked with a local businessman who is worried that the way the law is being interpreted may force him to undo the health-care coverage he currently provides for his 27 employees.

If that turns out to be the case — and he and others have to downgrade their insurance or pay substantially more — then the law really will need big changes.

But that’s an “if.” It’s a work in progress. Isn’t the day after the state insurance marketplaces first flickered to life, three months before the law applies to individuals and more than a year before a mandate hits businesses all just a bit early to declare total failure?


Said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane and one of the House Republican leaders, on why the government shutdown, while not her fault, is nevertheless worth it: “No matter where I go when I’m home in Eastern Washington — the grocery store, the local coffee shop, the county fair — the concern is the same: Obamacare is making life harder for everyday Americans.”

That’s amazing, considering it hasn’t taken effect yet.

I bet if she polled the guests being kicked out of Lake Crescent Lodge she’d get a much different answer on what’s making life harder.

Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or

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