The passage this week of House Republicans’ 56th anti-Obamacare measure is almost entirely symbolic. The chance that the Senate will ever vote to overturn the Affordable Care Act is small. And the chance that President Obama will sign a bill repealing his signature achievement is even smaller.

That said, Maine Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin is to be commended for his vote against Obamacare’s repeal. Poliquin’s opposition to his party’s measure showed that he’s prepared to put his constituents ahead of party politics.

Poliquin declared during his 2012 Senate campaign that his first priority, if elected, would be to overturn the ACA. He reaffirmed this viewpoint two years later, as a candidate for Congress in Maine’s 2nd District, when he secured the endorsement of the right-leaning Campaign for Liberty by pledging to “support and cast every vote for legislation that will repeal or defund Obamacare.”

But he walked back that stance Tuesday, when he was just one of three House Republicans to vote against H.R. 596.

“Had Congress voted for the full repeal of Obamacare two years ago, families and small businesses would have been able to adjust to the change,” Poliquin said in a statement. “Now, however, more than 60,000 Mainers have invested their time and energy in choosing health care plans that work for their families.”

Poliquin has gotten pushback from the Campaign for Liberty, but he’s right. It is too late to start over. And whether Poliquin meant to imply this or not, health care reform is working for Maine families.

With a little more than a week to go before the Feb. 15 enrollment deadline, nearly 63,000 Mainers have signed up for health insurance under the ACA. People who had been uninsured or had been paying a lot for minimal coverage now have access to reasonably priced preventive care and treatment. They and their families don’t have to put off getting care until they’re desperately ill, or resort to going to the emergency room.

After Tuesday’s vote, Poliquin called for “a tangible, free-market replacement” for Obamacare. But none of the dozens of repeal proposals would have put in place a program that’s more to the liking of the ACA’s critics while still meeting the needs of the uninsured.

Now, however, it looks like Republicans in Congress are finally stepping up and offering an alternative. Two senators and a congressman released their own plan Wednesday. And House committee leaders are working on a proposal, Speaker John Boehner declared last week.

Poliquin’s decision to buck his party is an uncommon tactic for a freshman lawmaker and one that could bode well for Maine families – as long as he stands firm on retaining the aspects of Obamacare that have slowed the growth in health care costs, reined in premiums and allowed tens of thousands more residents of our state the chance to get healthier.

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