GOP Comes Back Swinging on Health Care Repeal

health care

Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET with news of scheduled health care repeal vote.

Republicans plan to take over the House this week with a symbolic flourish meant to give a nod of recognition to the Tea Party: They'll read the Constitution aloud. They're promising to follow up with another act that could prove just as symbolic: a vote to repeal health care reform.

GOP Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.), the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday that the House will vote to repeal President Obama's key legislative accomplishment before he delivers his State of the Union address at the end of this month. What's more, he promised that they'll garner enough votes to overcome a presidential veto -- a tall order under any circumstances.

"We have 242 Republicans. There will be a significant number of Democrats, I think, that will join us," Upton said. "Remember when [Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi] said we want to pass this thing because then we'll learn what's in it? Well, now the American public does know what is in it. Unpopularity numbers are as high as 60 percent across the country. I don't think we're going to be that far off from having the votes to actually override a veto."

The promise of repealing the president's comprehensive health care overhaul has become an integral part of stump speeches to conservative audiences, but its chances of success are slim. It would take two-thirds majority in the House and the Senate to override a presidential veto. Regardless of what happens in the House, it's highly unlikely Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would bring a repeal measure up for a vote in the Senate.

Upton, however, was optimistic Republicans can pressure Democrats to consider a repeal. "If we pass this bill with a sizable vote, and I think that we will, it will put enormous pressure on the Senate to do perhaps the same thing," he said.

If that effort fails, Upton said Republicans would attack the bill "piece by piece." As an example of how such an attack would work, he pointed to the bipartisan support to repeal a provision of the health care law that requires more paperwork from some businesses. However, the House failed to pass a repeal of that specific measure last year, suggesting that a piecemeal effort to dismantle the bill could be challenging.

Repealing parts of the legislation, however, is just one part of the GOP's multi-pronged strategy to dismantle health care reform, which also includes conducting congressional hearings to scrutinize the bill, relying on court decisions to pull it apart, and withholding funding for the new measures.

Yet while efforts to dismantle health care reform may please the conservative base, Republicans run the risk of ignoring the more pressing issue of the economy -- a mistake Democrats made when they fought to enact the new laws.

"For Republicans, the key is to link anything they do to health care to the economy," CBS News political analyst John Dickerson said on CBS' "The Early Show." "That is still the central issue, and Republicans have to focus anything they want to do on health care and say, 'This is how this hurts the economy and that's why we're trying to get rid of it.'"

The New York Times reports that Democrats will be more eager to defend the legislation this year than they were during last year's midterm elections. They may have more support from Mr. Obama, who plans to campaign for re-election on the new laws.

It's also worth considering that public opinion on the law is likely to keep changing. So far, only some of the reforms have been enacted. Starting just this month, for instance, senior citizens will start receiving help from the government to cover the cost of the gap in Medicare coverage often referred to as the "donut hole." The major part of the reform law -- the requirement for all Americans to have health care -- doesn't even go into effect until 2014.

UPDATE: The House will vote to repeal health care bill on Jan. 12, Republicans announced today.

The Rules Committee will meet on Thursday and the rule to consider repeal of the health care law will be brought to the House floor on Friday. Then, the repeal will go before the full House on Wednesday, Jan. 12.

In order to comply with the GOP's new transparency rules, the repeal legislation will be available online tonight here.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats today sent a letter to incoming House Speaker John Boehner, urging him to not repeal the law.

"If House Republicans move forward with a repeal of the health care law that threatens consumer benefits like the 'donut hole' fix, we will block it in the Senate," the letter said. "This proposal deserves a chance to work. It is too important to be treated as collateral damage in a partisan mission to repeal health care."

Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.