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Even before today's vote on repealing the health care reform law, House Republicans were moving on.
GOP Members are now focusing on trying to dismantle President Barack Obama's signature legislative accomplishment through a series of targeted changes, rather than one symbolic shot. The repeal bill will pass the House later today, but Republicans have long acknowledged it won't go any further.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor said as much Tuesday when he called the repeal debate the beginning of "deliberations on replacing this health care law with the kind of alternatives that Americans really want."
The Virginia Republican said several House committees will begin work in the coming weeks on a series of smaller health care measures. He also acknowledged that this week's debate on the repeal is far different from the health care fight that kicked off the 112th Congress: "This is about health policy. ... We expect the debate to be about policy."
Republicans and Democrats alike said there were two reasons for the relatively tame debate: the largely symbolic nature of the vote and the fact that few Members have the stomach for a highly charged fight in the wake of last week's attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).
Members are acutely aware that "literally every word is being microanalyzed," a senior House GOP aide said.
The aide also remarked, "I don't think there's any doubt that the House is going to pass this ... so you don't have this sweating-it-out dynamic" that was a part of the health care debate in the 111th Congress.
Cantor and other leaders had delayed the repeal vote for a week following the shooting. They put it back atop the agenda late last week.
One aide to a rank-and-file lawmaker acknowledged the dynamics of the debate have changed, saying: "We're making this strictly about policy. Let's keep this civil."
Republicans are now settling in for a more protracted health care fight that carries on throughout the next two years, one senior GOP aide said.
Republicans will try to undermine the law, first, by arguing that "Obamacare is not the right path for the country," and then by trying to explain to the public that "this is what a replacement bill would look like," the aide said.
The shift in tactics by the GOP has also given way for Democrats to come together on a strategy of their own. Democrats struggled for every vote when they passed the law last year, but conservatives and liberals have largely aligned during the repeal fight.
Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), a Blue Dog Coalition member who opposed the law, has shared his leadership's argument that repealing the law now would be "immoral."