Kline in lead as House set to take on health reform repealby Elizabeth Stawicki, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The U.S. House Rules Committee meets Thursday to begin laying the groundwork for the Republican effort to repeal the federal health care law.
The full House is scheduled to take up the measure next week, with a vote set for next Wednesday.
Observers expect the repeal to pass, but if so, it will be largely symbolic, since Democrats still control the U.S. Senate and President Barack Obama wields a veto pen.
However, the vote sets the stage for opponents to dismantle the law in the months to come.
With the Republican takeover of the U.S. House, Minnesota 2nd District Rep. John Kline, a Republican, is now one of Washington's leaders in efforts to overturn the federal health care law.
He's co-authoring the legislation named, "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act."
"It's good to re-energize the debate by putting the whole bill up," he said. "There will be hours of debate, at least six hours, maybe eight hours, going forward in the rules committee, moving to the House floor next week."
But Kline acknowledges that the chances of repealing the health care reform law in its entirety are slim to none. A companion repeal bill would have a tough time passing the Democratically-controlled Senate. And even if a Senate bill were to pass, President Barack Obama would most likely veto any legislation that undermines what he considers a key achievement of his presidency.
Nonetheless, the Obama Administration is on the offensive. On Wednesday, three members of Obama's cabinet -- the secretaries of health and human services, labor, and the treasury sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to vote against the repeal.
The day before, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius held a conference call with reporters touting the law's benefits. She said repealing health reform, "shifts power back to the insurance companies." But even with the House vote on the horizon, Sibelius was upbeat about the law's future.
"I am actually feeling more optimistic now than I was during the debate to pass the bill in the first place," she said. "Because what's happening across the country is people are beginning to see how the new health reform law benefits them and their families."
Kline disagrees that Americans are warming to the health reform law.
"The most deciding poll in America, that held last November, was pretty strong indication that the American people do not like this legislation," he said. "They don't like what it's doing to their choices; they do not like what it's doing to job creation in this country. I don't know what anecdotal piece of evidence the secretary is using to draw her conclusion."
Last month the Kaiser Family Foundation, which polls attitudes about the health reform each month reported that about 40 percent of Americans support the law and about the same portion oppose it. The remaining 20 percent didn't know or refused to answer.
Congressional analyst Norm Ornstein said public opinion is something Republicans need to be concerned about, particularly in how the public views them.
Ornstein, a political scientist and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said Republicans run a serious risk of losing public support if they appear to be spending too much time on health care rather than jobs.
"If Republicans become like Captain Ahab obsessed with killing this big white whale of a health reform bill, and keep holding hearings and investigations as it gets implemented, they may find - to their chagrin - that voters are saying that's not what we brought you here to do, that's over and done with," he said.
Minnesota's Congressional Delegation on next week's repeal vote will split down party lines. The offices of all four of Minnesota's House Republicans say they'll vote to repeal. Aides say the four House Democrats will vote against repealing the law.
- Morning Edition, 01/06/2011, 7:25 a.m.