AFTER a brief hiatus in deference to U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and other victims of the Arizona shootings, the House of Representatives is scheduled to discuss repeal of the new federal health care law this week.
It's more than a political exercise, even though the Democrat-controlled Senate probably would spike any attempt by the House to kill or change Obamacare. Few think the Senate would even discuss the House's repeal legislation. Most likely it would be ignored to death.
Still, voting on repeal will make good on a campaign promise many Republican candidates made last year: to do everything possible to stop Obamacare as enacted — a promise that generally was rewarded in an election wave that put Republicans back in the House majority with a net pickup of 63 seats.
It also will set a baseline for future debates and votes on a number of changes to Obamacare, which just might garner bipartisan support and put more pressure on the Senate to act.
U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., and a member of the House Democratic leadership, told Fox News that members of his party would consider “modifications” to Obamacare. That's either coy politics by Clyburn or perhaps indication that Democrats indeed felt the earth move under their feet in November — and don't want to feel it again in 2012.
There might be common ground for reducing Obamacare's impact and cost. “There are lots of things short of an all-out repeal that could throw sand in the gears to slow it down and possibly bring it to a screeching halt,” the Cato Institute's Michael Cannon told USA Today. Cannon suggested future action could come on the program's individual mandate and from investigations into how the bill is being implemented and how it was passed.
The requirement that every American buy health care insurance starting in 2014 is the program's most intrusive facet and one of its most unpopular, opposed by a 2-to-1 margin in a recent AP-GfK poll. “There's other ways we can get people into the (insurance) pool — I hope — other than a mandate, and we need to look at that,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., told MSNBC recently. Yes, McCaskill is up for re-election next year.
No doubt there are avenues to encourage participation other than the compelling hand of government. That and reorienting the program into one that works to control medical costs — which Obamacare doesn't do — should be high on the Republicans' to-do list after the repeal vote is taken.
The new GOP House won't be able to completely uproot Obamacare on its own. But it can begin the walk back from last year's partisan legislation, starting this week.