With each passing week, it looks more and more like Republicans will retake control of Congress this fall. The latest Gallup poll gives the GOP a six-point edge. Rasmussen puts the Republican lead at seven points.
Even if Republicans take back Congress, they won’t be able to undo the Democrats’ legislative accomplishments right away. President Obama will be able to protect his signature achievements – like health reform – with his veto pen for as long as he calls the White House home.
But the GOP need not wait for a presidential victory in 2012 to begin repealing Obamacare. If Republicans assume congressional control this fall, they can – and should – start the repeal process as soon as the new Congress is seated in 2011 by refusing to fund the programs and initiatives created by the new law.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Congress will hold sway over $115 billion over the next decade to finance both the agencies responsible for implementing the law and the programs that have legally specified funding levels.
The GOP should put a hold on that spending and starve the Obamacare beast.
Voters would support such a move. A recent Rasmussen survey found that over half of likely voters favor repealing the health reform law. Choking off its funding is the next best option.
How to do so? The next Congress could simply refuse to allocate money to new healthcare programs in the annual appropriations bills for all the various federal agencies. Alternatively, lawmakers could tack on an amendment to any appropriation bill explicitly banning funds from being spent on the healthcare law.
Obamacare offers plenty of targets for defunding. For starters, Congress could refuse to give the Internal Revenue Service the money it needs to hire the 16,000 new agents envisioned by the law to enforce the individual mandate and ensure that small businesses are filing the hundreds of new tax forms demanded of them.
Lawmakers could also refuse to appropriate the funds needed to create some of the 159 new boards and commissions established by Obamacare. Do we really need to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on useless bureaucracies like an Elder Justice Coordinating Council or a Medicaid Emergency Psychiatric Demonstration Project?
Congress could also roll back some of the more egregious giveaways that Democratic leaders used to buy support for their bill. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) secured some $300 million in new Medicaid money for her state in exchange for her vote for Obamacare. Political kickbacks like this should be among the first provisions of the law to go.
President Obama isn’t likely to roll over and let his signature legislative accomplishment be demolished piece by piece. He’ll veto unfriendly appropriations bills.
Republicans won’t be able to override his vetoes on their own. But by challenging the president, they’ll draw attention to some of the more absurd – and expensive – components of Obamacare. Republicans will have the chance to make their case – and will force the president to defend his reform effort’s most unpopular provisions.
After that public debate, some nervous moderates may read the political tea leaves and vote to defund some of Obamacare’s initiatives as well.
Even if they don’t, a budget showdown over Obamacare’s most unpopular provisions could be a nightmare for the president. Would he really be willing to risk his re-election campaign for political kickbacks and new IRS agents?
Once they’ve beaten back Obamacare, Republicans should offer healthcare solutions of their own.
Here’s one idea: Change the federal tax code so that individuals and families can purchase health insurance with pre-tax income – just as businesses currently can. Correcting this unfair imbalance would immediately put private insurance within the reach of many uninsured Americans – as well as those who may have inadequate coverage through work.
The mid-term elections this fall are in large part a referendum on the new health reform law. If the American people give the ruling party the boot, the next Congress must fulfill the will of the people and roll back Obamacare.