Across the country, Republican candidates for Congress vowed to repeal President Barack Obama’s controversial health care reform law if they gained a significant number of seats in Congress through the mid-term elections. But the likelihood of a White House veto will complicate the GOP’s plan to blunt the centerpiece of the president’s agenda.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) has called health care law repeal the GOP’s “No. 1 priority”, vowing to also replace the law with “common-sense solutions.” But President Obama’s certain veto of an attempt by Congress to repeal the law means that congressional Republicans will likely have to find other ways to undo the statute – including denying funding – and much of the action will ultimately be in the U.S. Senate.
The law will increase health care spending by more than $300 billion in the next 10 years, according to the federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The law has also has garnered sharp criticism regarding the constitutionality of requiring Americans to buy health insurance by 2014. And these are just two of the many problems part and parcel with the health care law.
So, how would a GOP majority attack the law? Defunding the law – that is, stripping funds from budgets necessary for getting health care reform off the ground – is a tactic Republicans have threatened since the bill was voted into law earlier this year. The Senate could provide the president an appropriations bill that lacks money to actually enact the law. Much of the health care law’s funding is contained within the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill, which also funds other programs like public schooling and unemployment insurance. Selectively cutting off this funding would almost definitely force the president to veto the law.
But defunding the law may not please angry voters who want to see it repealed outright. Senate candidates in Kentucky, Kansas and Missouri, Illinois and New Hampshire have made repeal a key piece of their election platforms. And starving the bill of its funding neglects the larger issues, like its constitutionality.
Another option for Republicans is to weaken support for portions of the law that Democrats also find troublesome, such as cutting programs like Medicare and disability insurance, in order to create bipartisan disapproval and make a repeal filibuster-proof. Gaining Democratic support for the repeal would make it much more difficult for President Obama to veto a bill.
The Senate, though, is the key. It is where Democrats can filibuster attacks on the law and stall them on the Senate floor. It is where enough votes for a veto override may need to include a few Democrats, not just Republicans. The House, by contrast, is another affair altogether. The Senate will require a balancing act that appeals to at least a few Democrats.
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