Health-care reform in GOP cross hairs
Republicans plan an all-out assault on the new health-care reform law, which they see as the biggest symbol of over-reach by Democrats. President Obama's veto pen is the first defense.
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There is plentiful opportunity for delaying or derailing implementation of the law – an effort that could dominate the work of the incoming Congress as decidedly as passing the legislation absorbed the outgoing Congress. Republican committee chairmen are already gearing up to boost the level of oversight on the Obama administration.Skip to next paragraph
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Rep. Darrell Issa (R) of California, incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, describes health-care reform as an "unparalleled encroachment of the federal government in the private sector and the lives of individual Americans." It will be met, he promises, by "vigorous congressional oversight of the massive federal bureaucracy," including use of his panel's subpoena power.
"It's not what the freshmen are going to do but what the new chairs are going to do," says Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. "Chairmen like Darrell Issa and others can haul [secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services] Kathleen Sebelius before the committee, hold lots of hearings, do oversight to the max. Call it death by a thousand cuts. Even without statutory changes, you can make it very difficult to get health-care reform implemented."
Oversight hearings to begin in House
One of the first oversight hearings will likely probe how the Obama administration intends to attain $500 billion in cuts to Medicare mandated by the health-care reform act. That will involve a trip to Capitol Hill by Donald Berwick, whom Obama appointed, without Senate confirmation and over GOP objections, to head the government's Medicare and Medicaid programs. Republicans will no doubt ask Dr. Berwick to explain how those cuts can be made and what their effect on seniors will be.
"The guy in charge with half a trillion [dollars] of cuts to Medicare has yet to speak to the American people," says Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. "The Democrats could have forced him to come up here so they can hear what he has in mind. The [GOP-controlled] House will have that opportunity. Democrats wouldn't allow it."
Republicans are also prospecting for ways to delay the new law by using annual spending bills to hold up funding to agencies charged with new health-care responsibilities or to bar agencies from using existing funding streams to advance provisions in the law. They are especially targeting mandates or charges on businesses that could discourage job creation.