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GOP Readies Assault on Health Care Law

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Senate Republicans will be looking to their counterparts in the House to halt the necessary funding and conduct sharp oversight of the law as an effective means to build support for a full repeal on Capitol Hill, as well as among the public. They also believe that court challenges will aid their campaign. But Republican Senators also intend to be proactive.

“There will be the usual effort by a lot of us to try, if not repeal the darn thing, replace it with something that will work,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who will take over as ranking member of the Finance Committee in January and be in a position to drive the GOP repeal effort in his chamber. “I want good health care for our people, but that bill is a travesty. It’s an expensive travesty and a political boondoggle.”

Senate Democrats were united in their support of the health care reform law upon final passage last spring. But the measure maintains varying degrees of support throughout the country, and some Democrats are expressing a willingness to at least make adjustments to the law, conceding its imperfections. The average of all polls released Aug. 27 to Dec. 18 showed support for the law at 40.6 percent and opposition at 52.1 percent.

Sen. Jon Tester said he is open to making improvements to the law. The Montana lawmaker is one of nearly a dozen Democrats up for re-election in 2012 in states that either tilt Republican or performed well for the GOP on Nov. 2.

“I think there’s going to be plenty opportunity to take the health care bill and make it into a better bill,” Tester said. “I am absolutely open to everybody’s ideas — Democrat, Republican, independent and everybody in between. Let’s look at the options, if we can make it better, hell yes, let’s do it.” 

Senate Republican Conference Vice Chairman John Barrasso (Wyo.) plans to continue his practice of taking to the floor once a week to deliver a speech critical of the law. Barrasso, an orthopedic surgeon, calls this messaging campaign “a doctor’s second opinion,” and he uses it to both offer suggestions for how to change it and to dissect the law to expose what he contends are flaws.

Republicans believe their push to block implementation of the law and help lay the foundation for repeal will be significantly boosted by the thousands of regulations that the Department of Health and Human Services is writing to comply with the reform legislation’s directives. Barrasso, highlighting his negative view of already-written regulations and how they have been applied, confirmed that this would be an area the GOP focuses on.

“We can certainly try to force a vote on it,” the Wyoming Republican added. “We have a number of issues, though, that we’re going to come up with, related to health care, with repealing and replacing.”

Most Democrats remain committed to preserving and enhancing the health care law. The law includes several provisions sought for decades by Democratic presidents and Congressional leaders, including a ban on insurance companies refusing to sell coverage based on a pre-existing conditions, an elimination of financial caps on coverage and allowing children to stay on their parents’ policy until age 26.

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