GOP Faces Uphill Climb To Undo Health Law House Republicans who promised their constituents that they would get rid of and replace the health law may find it's easier said than done. With a Democratic majority in the Senate, such a repeal is unlikely to go far.

GOP Faces Uphill Climb To Undo Health Law

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

D: NPR's Julie Rovner takes a look at how that could play out.

JULIE ROVNER: Incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor doesn't mince any words when it comes to Republicans' plans for the new health law.

ERIC CANTOR: You will see the Republican-led House put a bill across the floor that will call for a full repeal of the Obama Health Care Bill. That will be one of the first things we will do.

ROVNER: But while House Republicans are likely to hail it as a major victory and campaign promise kept, it's unlikely to get far in the Senate, which remains controlled by Democrats. So, says Cantor, House Republicans will then turn to Plan B.

CANTOR: We will intend to work with the House committees to make sure that we can delay and de-fund the ObamaCare bill.

ROVNER: But again, House Republicans can't act alone. And even delaying or de- funding it won't be easy.

HENRY WAXMAN: I think that the president and the Senate will resist that.

ROVNER: That's Henry Waxman. He's the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and a leading backer of the new law. He says that because of the way the law is written, about the only way House Republicans can deny funding to implement it is by forcing a shutdown of the entire federal government.

WAXMAN: If they want to get things into a stalemate, I don't think that that's going to make them popular with the American people.

ROVNER: Still, Republicans do have other tools they can use, says Michael Cannon of the libertarian CATO Institute, particularly the power that comes with gaining control of congressional committees.

MICHAEL CANNON: They can do a series of congressional hearings and commission reports about particular aspects of this law. They can look into the behavior of the administration, both during the congressional debate and since the law's enactment.

ROVNER: But Democratic Congressman Waxman says he's looking forward to the GOP hearings. He says they might actually be just what the law needs to build public support, rather than tear it down.

WAXMAN: I think the series of hearings would be a good thing, because it'll educate the Republicans who didn't pay any attention to the bill while it was going through the Congress. And I think the public, the more they hear about this bill, the more they're going to like it.

ROVNER: Drew Altman, president of the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation, says the next couple of years will represent a race of sorts, between the people who want to get the law implemented and those who want to see it repealed.

DREW ALTMAN: Because the benefits of the law are largely popular. And once the insurance reforms and the tax credits and all the benefits of the legislation are in place, and benefiting not just the 30 million people who directly get a Medicaid expansion or a tax subsidy, but also their family members and their friends who see the benefits of the law, then it's going to be much harder for the critics of the law to roll it back.

ROVNER: But that won't happen until 2014. In the meantime, even if Republicans can't do much to change the law now, Altman says they have good reason to keep hating it. It keeps their otherwise fractious party unified and looking ahead to the next election.

ALTMAN: Certainly a considerable element of this is political positioning for 2012, and keeping the right revved up because the law is unpopular with the political right.

ROVNER: Julie Rovner, NPR News, Washington.

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