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Republicans Push ‘Repeal and Replace’ Strategy

Congressional Republicans are looking to rebound from a stinging legislative defeat and reclaim the political high ground by employing a “repeal and replace” health care strategy as a component of a broader focus on the economy.

Recognizing that President Barack Obama would veto any attempt to repeal the new health care law and replace it with a GOP alternative, Republican leaders eyeing the potential for big electoral gains in November are set to campaign on swapping out what they view as the most egregious and problematic provisions of the $940 billion package.

Senate Republicans outlined their health care policy initiatives Friday in a strategy memorandum.

However, Republicans intend health care to play second fiddle to the party’s planned focus on economic growth and job creation. Attacking the new health care law, GOP aides and party strategists explained, will simply serve to supplement the minority’s case to voters that the president and Democratic majorities have mishandled the economy. House and Senate Republican leaders are in the process of coordinating the politics and policy of the message.

“Repeal and replace is not going to be the case that Republicans make to the voters. But it will be a component,” a senior Republican Senate aide said. “What we’re going to be focused on is how health care impacts the economy. I don’t anticipate a single Republican spending their entire month of October 2010 talking about the ins and outs of health care policy.”

With the public divided over the new health care law and unemployment near 10 percent, Congressional Republicans plan an aggressive push to put the Democrats on the defensive between now and Election Day. The multitrack GOP strategy on health care and the economy is likely to include an under-the-Dome legislative element, while also manifesting on the campaign trail in various forms.

The “repeal and replace” slogan appeals to GOP strategists on the Hill because it offers a framework large enough to accommodate moderates and conservatives and the differing opinions they may have in the wake of health care reform becoming law. Congressional Republican leaders like the strategy because it fits with the practical limitations inherent in countering the overhaul, no matter how successful the GOP might be in the midterm elections.

“What we’d like to do is see this bill never become law [and] replace it with constructive solutions to specific problems, like those that we have been promoting for the past year,” Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said. “As a practical matter, as long as Barack Obama is president, about the best you’re ever going to be able to do is to repeal parts of it. But it’s nice to have a goal out there that you’re shooting for.”

Democrats contend that this policy strategy is a political loser.

“The push to repeal this bill and put insurance companies back in charge seems like a sure winner for the Democrats,” a senior Democratic Senate aide said. “There’s been a huge uptick in approval ratings for Democrats after these past two weeks, and a Republican push to undo stuff like kicking you off your insurance because of a pre-existing condition is perhaps the biggest loser of an argument we’ve ever heard — and a fight we welcome.”

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