Though the official GOP push to repeal the health care law has slowed since Republicans took power in January, the right flank of the House and Senate haven’t quieted down at all. And on Wednesday, several of them gathered outside the Capitol with the anti-reform group “Repeal It Now” in front of a stack of boxes which they claim contained 1,600,000 signed petitions demanding the entire law be repealed.
But though the members are pursuing complete — not partial — repeal of the law as soon as possible, they acknowledged they may have to wait until next Congress to make any headway. That’s when they might have enough power to use some of the same procedural tools Democrats used to pass the bill.
“Turnabout’s fair play,” said Rep. Steve King (R-IA).He’s talking about “reconciliation” — the technical term for a budget process that allows a narrow Senate majority to circumvent a filibuster, and pass certain kinds of tax and spending policies on a majority-rules basis. It’s the tool Democrats used to pass a small but significant package of amendments to their final health care bill — in the face of loud GOP howls — after Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) won his special election and cost the them their 60-vote super majority.
Now conservative Republicans say they’re prepared to use the same tool to repeal as much of the law as they can if they control both chambers in 2013 — despite decrying the process itself in practically the same breath.
“Beyond…the reconciliation component of this, they used every legislative shenanigan that I have ever seen to get this implemented,” King also said.
Republicans have used reconciliation many times over the years — perhaps most famously when they passed the Bush tax cuts in 2001. Indeed, it’s because reconciliation rules require legislation to be deficit neutral or better over the 10 year budget window that the Bush tax cuts were set to expire at the end of last year.
Public polling of the health care law is decidedly mixed, but not withstanding the impressive signature total, there isn’t anything close to broad support for total repeal of the law. These members are undeterred — they want the whole law nixed.
“People say well, you don’t like [26 year olds] being able to stay on their families’ health insurance policy?” asked Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA). “No I’m not opposed to that. But you know what, if we would create a few jobs in the country, they would be out working and have a good income and a good health benefit package from their employer. So you know, we start with the right thing.”
Flanked by 10 of the most conservative Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), claimed repealing health care reform “isn’t a partisan issue. It’s an American issue.”