Lawmakers Mindful of ‘Tone’ Ahead of Health Care Repeal Debate
Published January 17, 2011
In this Jan. 6 file photo, House Speaker John Boehner, right, accompanied by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, holds a copy of a proposal to repeal the health care law.
House Republicans, toning down their rhetoric slightly, plan to reset the debate over the health law repeal Tuesday on Capitol Hill, building a strictly economic case against “Obamacare” after pausing for a week out of respect for the victims of the Tucson shooting.
GOP leaders are in unison in arguing that they cannot wait any longer to resume debate on the health care overhaul. While the repeal stands scant chance of clearing Congress or withstanding a presidential veto, Republicans say the public demands Washington start early chipping away at the law.
Both sides, though, may try a little harder to keep the debate from becoming overheated. President Obama and Republicans alike reject claims that political rhetoric contributed to the shooting last Saturday in Arizona. But the president urged Congress to keep the discourse “worthy” of the victims. And in the days following, House Speaker John Boehner has noticeably avoided describing the bill as the “job-killing” health care law.
Instead, Boehner substituted the term “job-destroying” during Republicans’ retreat in Baltimore over the weekend. And in a post on his official House speaker blog Monday, his office referred to the policy as the “job-crushing” heath care law, which contained “job-destroying” taxes and requirements.
That doesn’t mean the name of the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act” will change. Sources say it will not. It doesn’t mean either side will do away with the dire warnings about what’s at stake. But it suggests lawmakers may show a tad more restraint in setting the terms of a debate which is unavoidably passionate.
There will be several opportunities for that passion to flare this week. According to a schedule released late last week by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., the House will begin consideration of the repeal Tuesday, with a vote set for Wednesday. From there, House Republicans are planning to take up a new bill that would order relevant committees to start working on replacement legislation.
Democratic Rep. James Clyburn told Fox News he welcomes the upcoming debate. “The question is, what will be the tone?” he added, urging Republicans to stop describing the bill as “job-killing.”
Clyburn predicted that an all-out repeal would go nowhere. But he indicated a willingness to “modify” parts of the legislation that could be improved.
“I believe that we all remember that when we passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we had to modify three or four times — it was done in a bipartisan way. Same thing with the Voting Rights Act. So let us modify the health care law in a bipartisan way. But this whole stuff of repealing it, throwing it out and starting all over, that’s not going to happen,” the South Carolina congressman said.
Democratic leaders looking to defend the nuts and bolts of the law, which imposes a host of restrictions on health insurance companies while eventually giving subsidies to low-income Americans to buy insurance, got a boost Monday from an Associated Press-GfK poll that found just one in four people favor a complete repeal. The poll showed opposition to the law easing from just a couple months ago.
Congressional Democrats are gearing up for a fight, however symbolic it may be. The Democratic National Committee plans to host a conference call Tuesday building the case against the GOP repeal campaign. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office sent out an e-mail Monday highlighting several presumably popular elements of the health care law — such as tax credits for small businesses — which would be threatened by repeal.
But Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, an ardent health care overhaul opponent, rejected the idea of a piecemeal approach to tweaking the health care law.
“It’s all got to come out,” he told Fox News. “We have to take it all out, pull it out by the roots.”
He said the energy is still pulsing on the GOP side despite the latest poll.
“It would have been probably easier to have this vote on the 10th of November or so, but there’s a tremendous amount of momentum here,” he said. “I don’t know any (Republican) freshman that ran on a nuance of, ‘I’m going to try to make a deal with Democrats to try to save some part of this.'”
Boehner’s speaker blog described the anti-health overhaul campaign as a push to shield businesses from costly requirements, like the oft-maligned mandate that businesses fill out 1099 forms for purchases of more than $600. The statement called for Congress to pass “common-sense reforms” to lower costs without using “unconstitutional mandates” — the latter a reference to the requirement that Americans buy health insurance, a requirement being challenged in the courts.
Boehner said in a statement that the repeal push is “critical” to fulfilling GOP pledges to save and create jobs.
“No act of violence is going to keep us from doing our jobs and representing the will of our constituents,” he said.