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With an expected assist from the new House GOP majority, Senate Republicans are planning an aggressive push next year to disrupt — and if possible, dismantle — President Barack Obama’s landmark health care reform law.
Senate Republicans are cognizant of the practical limitations of their minority status and the president’s veto pen, and they have made a concerted effort not to raise expectations. But discussions with key Republican Senators and staff before Christmas revealed that the GOP intends to do everything it can to repeal the law and replace it with reforms deemed sensible and friendly to job growth.
“It’s high on our agenda,” Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) said. “We’re committed to trying to repeal it; and, if that doesn’t work, to go step by step to reduce its effect — especially on job creation. So, I expect to see us regularly dealing with health care.”
“We’ll do our best to cooperate with the House and to take their initiatives and to move them through the Senate,” Alexander added. “But we’re going to count on the House of Representatives to do a lot of the heavy lifting.”
Regardless of whether Congressional Republicans are successful, their efforts — not to mention the handful of legal challenges to the health care law’s constitutionality currently winding their way through the federal courts — all but assure that the issue will re-emerge as major political and legislative boilerplate in 2011.
Many Democrats appear happy to reprise this fight, which consumed nearly three-quarters of the 111th Congress, subsiding only when Obama signed health care reform into law in late March.
“I think they’re going to run into a brick wall,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who is up for re-election in 2012 in a state that swung heavily right on Nov. 2. “I think it goes nowhere. I don’t know how they’re going to explain their wanting to go back and visit that instead of working towards job issues.”
Alexander said Senate Republicans, recognizing the potential pitfall of focusing on health care to the detriment of jobs and the issues of government spending and debt, plan to wrap their arguments for the full repeal of the health care law around job creation and economic growth. As Conference chairman, Alexander’s job is to develop Republican messaging.
Whether rhetorically or through legislative proposals to repeal the law or provisions of it that have yet to go into effect, the Republicans will contend that dismantling and blocking the law will lead to reduced unemployment. A few areas the GOP plans to focus on include the law’s expansion of Medicaid, the state-run health insurance programs that serve the poor; the federal mandate forcing all Americans to purchase coverage; and a new tax reporting provision that businesses have complained is too onerous.