While Republicans such as Rep. John Shimkus are eager to tear down the law, Members are also concerned that picking away at it might lead to unintended consequences in court.
Regarding how they approach the law, Republicans have floated several piecemeal measures.
Amanda Austin of the National Federation of Independent Business, the group that alongside 26 states is challenging the health care law in the Supreme Court, said that even if the high court strikes down parts of the law, “we have some significant egregious provisions that are going to really impact employers come 2014.”
Austin, director of federal public policy at the NFIB, said House Republicans would be driving replacement legislation and noted that staff are working on proposals in preparation for the high court’s decision.
“It just seems to be very early [to guess] what kind of foundation the House wants to build on,” Austin said. “They may not be there yet, or maybe they’re just not telling me.”
The health care law turns 2 on March 23, and the high court’s proceedings are expected to occur shortly after that milestone. The proceedings will likely coincide with budget debates in the House.
Congressional Democrats last year blasted House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget for making sweeping reforms to Medicare and Medicaid, and they contend that their party won a special House election in upstate New York thanks to their messaging on those issues.
Party leaders are gearing up for a similar fight this year and will use the budget debate to position themselves as the party of better health care.
“Republicans voted to end the Medicare guarantee, and they voted to take away people’s rights and put insurance companies in charge,” a Democratic leadership aide said. “That’s their agenda, and that’s what we have to deal with.”
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who co-chairs the Democrats’ seniors task force, said the group will localize its messaging efforts with “truth squads” that participate in constituent events to pick apart the Republican budget and defend the Democrats’ health care law.
“More than ever, you’re going to see more message discipline,” the Illinois Democrat said. “This lie that it’s the Democrats that cut Medicare rather than improved it, that’s one of the things that [Republicans] rode to victory on in 2010, and we are not going to let that happen again.”
Like Republicans, Schakowsky said, Democrats feel like they are in a holding pattern until the court acts. But as the party gears up for the 2012 elections, during which health care will be a major issue, Schakowsky said, the party will point out the benefits of the health care law, including that it allows children in their early 20s to stay on their parents’ insurance plans.
“We’ll see what the court does and then we’ll have to develop a strategy,” she said. “But I think more and more people are beginning to understand the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.”