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Health-care reform: After big GOP gains, will it be repealed?

Health-care reform is in the cross hairs of House Republicans, who are regaining control of the House. They vow to repeal or dismantle the legislation.

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The 3,833 pages of federal regulations issued to carry out the health-care law are also in the cross hairs of the new Congress. To date, Republicans have focused attention on ending a requirement for businesses to issue tax forms for any purchases over $600.

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“One of the things that’s come up is that the 1099 provision in the health-care bill appears to be too burdensome for small businesses,” Mr. Obama acknowledged Wednesday. “That’s something we should take a look at.”

For Republicans, there is wide scope for delaying or derailing implementation of health-care reform. Toward that end, GOP committee chairs are already gearing up to sharply increase the level of oversight on the Obama administration.

“Tonight was a referendum on the Obama agenda, and the American people rejected it,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R) of California, the expected incoming chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. His challenges to the Obama agenda have been so pointed that some House Democrats used them in campaign ads as a reason to vote Democratic.

Representative Issa describes health-care reform as an “unparalleled encroachment of the federal government in the private sector and the lives of individual Americans,” to be met by “vigorous congressional oversight” –including use of his panel’s subpoena power.

“Chairmen like Darrell Issa and others can haul Kathleen Sebelius [secretary of Health and Human Services], hold lots of hearings, do oversight to the max,” says Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. “Call it death by a thousand cuts. Even without statutory changes, you can make it very difficult to get health-care reform implemented.”

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, an antitax group, also sees potential in what House Republicans can do on the health-care front. “Even if you don’t have the votes to make the Senate enact things, you do have enough votes to kick up a fuss that something’s going on [in the health-care law] that Americans don’t know about,” he says.

Another pressure point for health-care reform is implementation at the state level. Twenty-one states are currently challenging the law in courts, most notably because of the law’s mandate that Americans obtain health insurance.

With Republicans on track to hold at least 28 governorships and 25 state legislatures, resistance at the state level could accelerate.

In a poll of Americans released Wednesday, 36 percent of GOP respondents said repeal of health-care reform should be the No. 1 priority of the new Congress. Twenty-nine percent of Republicans cited reductions in federal spending. Democrats, meanwhile, overwhelmingly favored passing a new stimulus bill to create jobs (63 percent). But 12 percent of Democrats also cited repeal of health-care reform as their top priority for lawmakers.

“These partisan differences highlight the challenges that face the lame-duck Congress that will reconvene before the end of the year, as well as the new Congress that will take office in January,” said Frank Newport, editor in chief of Gallup, in a statement with the release.

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