Friday will mark the second anniversary of the passage of President Obama’s signature health-care reform law, and House Republicans plan to spend considerable time this week focused on tearing down elements of the legislation and raising doubts about the broader reforms.
The House plans to vote Tuesday on a bill that would repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a 15-member panel established as part of the health-care law that would convene in 2014 and make recommendations to Congress on how to change Medicare if the program’s costs begin growing faster than gross domestic product. The panel is a non-starter for most Republicans, who call it an “unelected rationing board” and a prime example of federal overreach. (Despite the GOP jab, the 2010 law explicitly bans the board from making any recommendation “to ration health care.”)
The repeal legislation enjoyed notable Democratic support until last week, when GOP leaders announced plans to link it to another proposal to limit certain medical malpractice awards.
Still, the measures should attract support from Republicans and moderate/vulnerable Democrats to pass the House. Attention would shift next to the Senate, where Democrats are more resistant to changing the law. (The 60 Plus Association, a conservative-leaning advocacy group for seniors, plans to use a new multimillion-dollar ad campaign that targets five vulnerable Democratic senators to apply pressure in the Senate.)
Make no mistake: Republican voters — and many independents — are still skeptical of the health-care law, and an exhaustive new study released last week found that the reforms cost Democrats seats in the 2010 midterm elections. With the Supreme Court slated to hear three days of oral argument next week on elements of the law, this week’s votes on Capitol Hill are just part of a multi-pronged Republican plan to draw more attention to the issue in hopes of eating away at growing support for Obama and congressional Democrats ahead of November’s elections.
Ryan’s budget plan
But even as GOP lawmakers plan to unify around opposition to health-care reform, schisms should begin to appear Tuesday, when House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) plans to announce his spending proposal for fiscal 2013.
As The Washington Post’s Rosalind S. Helderman reports, Ryan’s plan is likely to restart the spending fight that consumed Washington for most of last summer.
The plan is expected to propose slashing agency budgets below spending levels established during last year’s debt-ceiling negotiations, a non-starter for the White House, congressional Democrats and even some Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee, who hope to avoid another possible government shutdown when the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, a time when the election will loom large. But tea party-aligned lawmakers and the conservative Club for Growth say the deeper cuts are a must to make significant dents in the federal deficit. (Side note: If you haven’t read The Post’s definitive account, published Sunday, of how last summer’s “grand bargain” fell apart, you must.)
Meanwhile, over in the Senate . . .
Senators this week plan to continue considering a modified version of the JOBS Act, a bipartisan bill that easily cleared the House with White House support. The bill will not sail as easily through the Senate, as Democrats plan to amend it by reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank. Although the amendment has some support from Senate Republicans, several House Republicans, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), have raised concerns about extending the borrowing authority of the tiny agency. Still, other House Republicans have said they can still support the measure if reauthorizing the Ex-Im is the only major change.
Indeed, congressional aides anticipate eventual passage of the jobs measure — just when and with what amendments attached remains unclear.
Marking a milestone
Senators this week also plan to honor Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who on Saturday became the longest-serving woman in congressional history. Mikulski, 75, was elected to the House in 1976 and to the Senate in 1986. Her streak now trumps that of the late Rep. Edith Nourse Rogers (R-Mass.), who served from 1925 to 1960.
Capitol Hill Irishfest
Despite the disagreements over health-care reform and spending, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) plans to host President Obama, Vice President Biden and Irish Prime Minister (or Taoiseach) Enda Kenny on Tuesday at the Capitol for the annual Friends of Ireland luncheon.
Afghanistan in focus
Gen. John Allen, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, is set to testify before the House and Senate armed services committees this week, as details begin trickling out about Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who allegedly shot and killed 16 unarmed Afghan civilians on March 11. Allen’s appearance is likely to reignite debate over how quickly U.S. forces should leave Afghanistan.
Who’s next to go?
Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) on Thursday became the 15th Democrat to announce his retirement from the House this cycle, shocking his constituents and Empire State political observers. In addition to the 15 retiring Democrats, eight others are seeking a different office. One Democrat, Donald Payne, died unexpectedly two weeks ago. Nine House Republicans are retiring, and seven others are seeking higher office.
Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost
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