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GOP Waits on Health Care Repeal

Scott J. Ferrell/ CQ Roll Call
Republican Sens. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) are eager to change the health care law in the next Congress.

Congressional Republicans will hold off on trying to repeal the health care reform law until January when their hand will be strengthened with a House majority and greater numbers in the Senate.

GOP leaders — and some rank-and-file Members — had vowed to launch the repeal effort immediately after the Nov. 2 elections. But the party is standing down until the new Congress convenes, conceding that Democratic majorities in the lame-duck session present an insurmountable roadblock. Republicans also think their top priority in the coming weeks must be extending the President George W. Bush-era tax cuts that are due to expire at year’s end.

“Look, we will be addressing our views about how to go forward on health care,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters on Tuesday. “We’ll be seeing if we can get the votes to repeal and replace the health care bill. I think that’s the first step. And you’ll hear from us on that subject early next year and then probably again quite often over the course of the next two years.”

“You will see action early [next year] on job creation and spending cuts,” added John Murray, an aide to House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), presumed to be the next Majority Leader. “Health care is a piece of that.”

Republican Senate aides stressed that McConnell and his GOP colleagues are not abandoning plans to try to take down the health care law, President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement of the 111th Congress. Just last week, McConnell filed an amicus brief in support of the federal lawsuit brought by a group of state attorneys general that seeks to overturn the statute. House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) also filed an amicus brief in the case.

Today, Senate Republican Conference Vice Chairman John Barrasso (Wyo.) will speak on the floor in another installment of his “doctor’s second opinion” to criticize the law. Barrasso, an orthopedic surgeon, will focus his comments on criticism about the law that was heard on the campaign trail by the 13 incoming Republican freshmen.

“I’m going to continue going to the floor with my second opinion,” he said.

Senate Republicans are set to increase their ranks from 41 to 47 in January, and Barrasso’s speech, titled “United Against Obamacare,” is intended to show that the new Conference is fully behind repealing the health care law.

Senate Republicans are pushing repeal legislation until January because they think a Republican-controlled House and six more GOP Senators will increase their bargaining power; they say they will have a stronger hand to pressure Senate Democrats to support the effort.

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