Republicans, who opposed much of President Barack Obama's agenda throughout the administration's first year, took control of the U.S. House of Representatives Nov. 2 and appear to consider their success a referendum upon the president's policies.
Moving into position as the House's dominant force, Republicans are already looking to roll back many of the administration's accomplishments. "Obamacare," a host of new legislation regulating health insurance and providing insurance coverage for millions of formerly uninsured Americans, is first on the chopping block, according to current House Minority Leader John Boehner. Boehner could become the new House speaker.
"I believe that the health-care bill ... will kill jobs in America, ruin the best health-care system in the world and bankrupt our country. That means we have to do everything we can to try to repeal this bill, and replace it with common-sense reforms to bring down the cost of health care," He told FOX News.
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is also pushing for the repeal, as is new Mississippi Republican House member Steve Palazzo, who beat conservative Democratic incumbent Gene Taylor last week. Palazzo is a member of the Repeal Obamacare PAC, which only supports candidates who vow to repeal the health-care reforms Obama signed into law in March.
But Republicans don't have a majority of Americans behind their plan, even in conservative Fox News polls, which show 48 percent of Americans want it gone, while 47 percent either wanted it expanded or left alone.
Newly elected U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee, who will replace Blue Dog Democrat Travis Childers next year, said he also plans to repeal the plan, including its more popular elements such as the law preventing insurance companies from excluding coverage for pre-existing conditions. He said the more appealing sections of the plan could find new life as Republican projects should his party successfully kill the legislation.
Nunnelee argues that restricting patients from successfully suing doctors for malpractice will reduce medical costs, and claims that tort reform in Mississippi has successfully reduced medical bills, despite a steady rise in medical costs since Mississippi enacted harsh damage claims caps in 2002 and 2004.
Republicans are unlikely to repeal health-care reform, according to information the White House sent TPMMuckraker this month pointing out that the president "will not accept attempts to repeal or weaken" his signature reform. Despite a Republican majority, Congress is unlikely to gather enough votes to trounce a presidential veto.
Many Republicans, including Palazzo and Nunnelee, ran on a platform of reducing the federal deficit, but offer no real details on targeted budget items. Nunnelee, for example, wants the deficit reduced, but no suggestions on which aspects of the federal budget he wants cut, including the bloated $500 billion U.S. defense budget. He could only offer the assurance that he had made "difficult decisions" with the state budget as a Mississippi senator that helped the state operate within its means. Palazzo and Nunnelee frequently target earmarks and pork spending, but these comprise only about 1 percent of the entire federal budget.
Boehner told FOX News during a
Nov. 4 interview that he would not support an outright ban on earmarks because "some things that people call earmarks here wouldn't classify as an earmark to the American people," signaling an end to even this paltry goal.
Three local political pundits, who largely guessed correctly on the ousting of Blue Dog Democrats, agreed that the Republican House likely would accomplish little over the next two years, aside from alienating themselves from the president.
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reporter Bobby Harrison said he expected the Republican Congress to ultimately help Obama's re-election chances by overdoing their animosity toward him, similar to the aid Republicans gave former President Bill Clinton in his 1990s bid for re-election.
Harrison said the Republican Congress would pale in comparison to Democratic achievements these past two years: "Whether you like it or not, there were historic changes the Democrats made regarding college scholarships and health care, but there won't be much done in the next two years if (Republican control) does happen," Harrison said the day before the election.
Mississippi State University Stennis Institute Director Marty Wiseman said Republicans were gearing up specifically for a strategy of obstructionism. "Several Republicans in the leadership are saying, 'no compromise, no way, no how,' while others have said 'this is simply Step 1,' that the next cycle is to finish the job and take Obama out with them. If that's their policy, there will be some gridlock with pain on both sides," Wiseman said.
Wiseman added that he expects Republicans to use their majority in the House to issue some highly political votes, but warned that the tactic could backfire.
"Republicans will take some symbolic votes, and use the House to do some adventurism," he said. "They might vote to repeal 'Obamacare,' but before it goes to the Senate, they'll have created a lot of opportunity for Democrats to put a little child on a television commercial showing her going though chemotherapy and having her health-care card swapped for a tax credit."
How can they take the country back without gridlock? I hope their supporters get just what they bargained for - many more years of carrying out their contract on America. They almost destroyed us the last time. Old fools and strangenuts gave them another chance. Surely an upstanding republican like Vitter will kill something, even if its no more than morality, family values and marital harmony. I guess he didn't like the spanking the Democrats gave them two years ago. He prefers the spankings he solicits and pays for.