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Win or lose, Republicans to target new health-care law after November elections

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 3, 2010; 8:51 PM

"Repeal and Replace." That's what Republicans are saying about the new health-care law as they look toward the Nov. 2 midterm elections. If they win the House, and possibly the Senate, they say, among their top priorities will be to undo President Obama's signature legislative achievement.

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"I am committed to doing everything that I can do . . . to prevent 'Obamacare' from being implemented," vowed House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) at a recent news conference, adding, "Now, when I say everything, I mean everything."

But even in the unlikely event that an outright repeal bill could withstand a filibuster in the Senate, there is little doubt that Obama would veto it. The odds that Republicans will win a veto-proof majority in November are generally considered slim to nil.

With a few exceptions, Republican fallback plans to target discrete provisions of the law for piecemeal elimination seem similarly doomed.

So does all this talk of rolling back the law amount to mere sloganeering?

Not necessarily. But at least during the next Congress, the true battle will probably be fought at the margins, over initiatives Republicans are planning in order to slow or disrupt the administration's preparations for 2014, when the most far-reaching provisions of the new law will begin.

Perhaps even more important for the long term, Republicans hope to hold oversight hearings aimed at laying the groundwork for a broad-based public repudiation of the law. That could give them the political momentum to overturn it if they can retake the presidency in 2012.

"If we can do it in one fell swoop, great. But if it needs to be a multi-step process, that's how we'll do it," Rep. Dave Camp (Mich.), the ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee and likely chairman of that panel if the GOP takes over, said in an interview.

In the short run, Congress's power of the purse may offer Republicans some of the most promising opportunities. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that over the next 10 years, the administrative costs of implementation could run from $5 billion to $10 billion each for the Internal Revenue Service and the Health and Human Services Department - costs that could require budget increases.

Republicans say they would try to deny any additional money Obama requests for implementation over the next two years, either by refusing to include it in the appropriations bill covering each agency or by tightening their overall budgets.

A related tactic would be to include language in the measures that prohibits the use of funding to implement the health-care law in general or particular aspects of it, such as the requirement that virtually everyone buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty.

The president and Democrats in Congress have vowed to push back. And interviews with Republican members of Congress, staff members and conservative lobbyists suggest that their opinions vary about the likelihood of their prevailing in such a showdown.


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