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How The GOP's Shutdown Over Obamacare Fell Short

Remember how that fight over the budget was all about Obamacare?

Seems like ancient history now, but House Republicans ostensibly shut down the government 17 days ago, demanding first a defunding, and, when that failed, a year's delay in the health law.

When it became clear that President Obama and Senate Democrats weren't going to yield to demands to stop or slow implementation of the administration's signature legislative achievement, Republicans looked for smaller changes.

They floated the idea of killing or delaying an unpopular tax on medical devices. Many Senate Democrats joined Republicans in a nonbinding vote of displeasure on the tax earlier this year.

The Republicans also looked to take away health insurance contributions for congressional and executive branch staffers. And they proposed to delay a temporary $63 annual per-person health insurance tax intended to build a fund to help pay for high-cost cases.

None of those things ended up in the final bill that reopened the federal government and raised the debt ceiling Wednesday night.

So what did?

Well, there was a little language related to the health law. It requires that the Secretary of Health and Human Services "certify to the Congress that the Exchanges verify" that individuals who get subsidies for premiums and cost-sharing are, in fact, eligible. And that the secretary "shall submit a report to the Congress that details the procedures employed by the American Health Benefit Exchanges to verify eligibility for credit and cost-sharing."

Sounds like a big deal? Not really. It so happens that the much-maligned "data hub" that's part of the health exchange already links to the IRS to verify income eligibility. So, basically, the law requires HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to write a letter explaining what the department is already doing.

But it's not just that the Republicans failed to make any changes to the health law in their 16-day tirade against the government. News coverage of the shutdown and potential default crowded out stories about the very rocky rollout of the health exchanges themselves.

As The Washington Post's Ezra Klein tweeted Wednesday:

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