GOP Rolls Out Campaign To Repeal Health Care

Facing an unexpected ruling validating the Affordable Care Act, Republicans in Congress promised to redouble efforts to repeal it, starting with another vote in the House early next month. Host Scott Simon talks with NPR's David Welna to explain the battle ahead.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

We're going to talk more about the reaction to the Supreme Court's ruling on President Obama's signature health care law. David Welna is NPR's congressional correspondent. David, thanks for being with us.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: You're welcome, Scott.

SIMON: There has been outrage among Republicans over the Supreme Court decision. Do they have plans to try and do anything about it?

WELNA: Well, you know, they say that while the court has found this to be constitutional, they still think it's bad policy. So the first thing that they say they're going to do is to hold a vote in the House of Representatives when they get back from their break end of July to repeal the law in its entirety.

Now this is a bit of political theater in rerun actually because the House has already voted 30 times either to repeal entirely or parts of the health care law. The problem is that the Democratic-led Senate refuses to pick up any of those initiatives. So they may vote again, but it's not going to go anywhere.

There is something that they can do, which is to cut off funding to the IRS which is supposed to implement the health care law. This is something that they tried last year that the Senate blocked it last year, but we don't know quite how things are going to turn out after the election in a lame duck session with spending initiatives.

SIMON: If, as you've presented, David, the effort to appeal will once again go ultimately nowhere in Congress, does that mean it just goes straight into the campaigns?

WELNA: I think so. We heard from GOP president's contender Mitt Romney the day the ruling came out saying if we want to get rid of Obamacare, we're going to have to replace President Obama. And a lot of Republicans are hoping this will galvanize people to vote for both Romney and also for Republicans running for the Senate to take control of the Senate. And they see this as an energizing issue for them, and one that could ultimately bring that repeal that they can't get right now.

SIMON: Do the Democrats then counter that argument by saying that, well, health care overhaul was a good idea when Governor Romney was governor of Massachusetts?

WELNA: Yes, and Democrats remind people that in fact the health care law that Romney signed into law in Massachusetts has the individual mandate that was such a matter of dispute in the Obama health care law. And the other thing that the court said about that law is that the penalty for not buying health insurance, this so-called individual mandate, is in fact a tax.

Now this is a problem for Governor Romney because what he did in Massachusetts would be seen as a tax as well and he said that when he was governor he did not raise taxes. It makes it a little bit more difficult for Republicans to use this argument about taxes simply because it's sort of a question of look who's talking.

SIMON: At the same time, of course, Democrats don't like to be associated with the word tax, do they?

WELNA: That's true. And raising taxes for anything is an anathema both parties right now. And Democrats are actually preparing arguments to say that in fact the Republican budget passed by the House would raise taxes on middle-class people and give big tax breaks to the wealthy. And so, we're seeing the health care argument in some ways is turning into an argument over taxes and that may be one of the big issues that we see on the campaign trail the rest of the year.

SIMON: Do you have a sense that this issue is going to be one of the defining ones of the campaign past a certain point?

WELNA: I don't know if it's going to be a defining issue of the campaign. It's been talked a lot about already. People have a certain fatigue of this health care issue in fact.

But I think that you're going to probably see more Democrats emboldened to talk about the health care plan, talk it up, explain it more, which is something that they haven't really been willing to do because they've been sort of cowed by the negative reaction to this law. And I think they see that it's been legitimized by the Supreme Court.

So expect to hear them maybe talking about it more at the same time that we may hear Republicans bringing it up more as an argument to vote Democrats out of office.

SIMON: NPR's congressional correspondent David Welna. Thanks so much.

WELNA: You're quite welcome, Scott.

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