By Martin Vaughan, Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- House Republicans plan a vote early in 2011 to repeal the health-care law, before settling in for a longer battle with the Obama administration targeting unpopular pieces of the law, GOP aides and lawmakers say.
Legislation to repeal the bill is expected to bog down in the Senate, where the GOP will still be well short of the votes needed to block it. But an early vote will be a thank you to the party’s political supporters who helped make repeal of the bill a top-tier issue in this fall’s House campaigns.
Buoyed by opposition to the law, Republicans are expected to wrest control of the U.S. House from Democrats in nationwide elections Tuesday.
“I believe we’ll see a vote very quickly,” said Rep. Charles Boustany (R., La.). “Whether or not there’s a willingness of the Senate to move in that direction, it’s important to have the vote. The American public supports” repeal, Boustany said.
Some GOP aides cautioned that a final decision has not been made, and will depend on input from the full House GOP conference following Tuesday’s elections.
The real battle will unfold over weeks and months following that vote, as Republicans seek to block implementation of aspects of the bill.
While they’ll have to contend with U.S. President Barack Obama’s veto pen, the GOP may seek victories on some low-hanging fruit like a $10 billion grant program for preventive care, or funding for research on the relativecost– effectiveness of treatments.
“The legislation doesn’t stand or fall on things like that. If they attempt to de-fund things that are more fundamental, the president will be forced to veto,” said Neera Tanden, a healthcare expert at the left-leaning Center for American Progress.
House Republican committee chairmen will use hearings to highlight alleged flaws in the design of the bill, GOP aides said. They are expected to call Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Medicaid and Medicare director Donald Berwick to testify early in 2011.
Oversight hearings could also feature state officials who must work with the federal government to set up insurance exchanges under the law.
Congressional Republicans may also seek to prevent new industry taxes that will be coming on-line, including a fee on drug manufacturers that takes effect in 2012, and a tax on medical devices that will be triggered in 2013.
A 3.8% tax on investment income to fund Medicare, to take effect in 2013, will also be a prime GOP target.