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Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney dispatched two health care advisers to Capitol Hill this week and House GOP leaders met with their rank and file behind closed doors for a final time to promote a unified front ahead of Monday’s anticipated Supreme Court decision on President Barack Obama’s health care law.
Regardless of whether the law is found constitutional, Republicans are hoping to avoid any intraparty squabbles that could jeopardize Romney’s chances at the White House.
House Majority Whip Kevin
McCarthy (Calif.) held his last scheduled listening session about the GOP’s health care plans Wednesday afternoon. In the well-attended meeting, an aide to Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) gave a presentation and Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.), a doctor, answered questions, according to a source in the room.
Believing that the health care bill will be held unconstitutional, Rep. Steve King (Iowa) told the room that he fears that if Obama is re-elected, he could appoint more liberal Supreme Court justices to relitigate the law and “stick it in our ear.”
“So our best plan of action is to win the election,” King said, according to the source in the meeting.
Undoubtedly with the same intention in mind, Romney health care advisers — Tevi Troy, the George W. Bush-era deputy director of the Department of Health and Human Services, and Matt Hoffmann, a former staffer to House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) — met Tuesday with Members.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Romney’s liaison to the House, said the meetings with Republican doctors, GOP freshmen and other interested Members were a way to increase communication between the Romney team and Congressional Republicans, though she was scant on details of Romney’s post-decision plans.
“We’re still having some of those conversations, trying to be prepared for the three ways the court may rule,” the Washington Republican said. “We really need to wait until we hear what the Supreme Court ruling is before we make any of those decisions.”
One Republican aide, however, noted that “the Romney team is with us on the notion that, no matter how the court rules, we should do a full repeal vote in the House, start the health care reform process over from scratch, take the time we need to do it right (including close consultation with the American people), and never try to re-enact any mandates, even if popular, that the court has struck down or weakened.”
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton said he has also been having discussions with Romney surrogates, as well as top committee chairmen, “to get ready to change your schedule beginning next week.”
The Michigan Republican left open the possibility that the House could take up small-bore health care legislation before November. He added, however, that a big concern was alleviated for many Members when major health insurers announced they would not remove those under 26 years old or people with pre-existing conditions from insurance rolls. That neutralizes a potential Democratic attack that Republicans are responsible for some people losing their coverage.
“It’s comforting to know, as a number of us reached out to the major insurers, that they’re going to try to keep everything intact for the balance of the year to allow us to examine precisely what the court does and also let the voters decide where they want to go come November,” he said.
Indeed, as the court looks at striking down one mandate — that most Americans buy insurance coverage — Republicans are hoping voters deliver another. Sweeping the elections, they say, would give them a clear directive to proceed with conservative health care reforms.
While most Members are itching to start the discussion right away, there are varied views about exactly how to proceed and whether to pass anything before the elections.
Several Members pointed to items such as tort reform and allowing Americans to purchase health insurance across state lines as measures that could be taken up immediately.
“We’ve had a year and a half to get ready for what we think will be the end result of the court decision,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp (Kan.) said. “I lean toward bringing something out. I think it’s more important to show what you’re for rather than just what we’re against.”
He said he supports a measure introduced by Price that seeks to promote widespread voluntary insurance coverage though tax incentives.
Other Members have other ideas.
Rep. Paul Broun, for instance, said he is itching to tout a FreedomWorks-endorsed bill he introduced that, among other things, converts Medicare to a premium support model and allows people to opt out of the program altogether.
“We’re looking at how we can at least promote some of my bill, if not all of it,” the Georgia Republican said. “If we can do my bill piece by piece, let’s do that also ... even before the election.”