Senate Republicans Push for Repeal of Health Care Law

By David Espo | February 2, 2011 | 9:04 AM EST

Washington (AP) - Senate Republicans want to repeal the health care law that President Barack Obama signed with a flourish a year ago. The Senate's top Democrat says they can forget about it.

A quick showdown looms as lawmakers maneuver on an issue that has been controversial since Obama proposed it on Inauguration Day two years ago.

The bill's supporters and critics agree on one point: The Supreme Court rather than politicians will ultimately decide the law's fate. Two federal judges have already ruled it partially or wholly unconstitutional, but two others have upheld it.

"We pledged to the American people that we would seek to repeal this 2,700-page bill that seeks to restructure all of American health care and put the decisions in Washington," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday, shortly before he formally launched his effort.

McConnell said all 47 members of the party's rank and file are behind the move, but Majority Leader Harry Reid said the law's supporters will prevail. "It's not going to go anywhere," predicted the Nevada Democrat.

When fully phased in, the law is intended to expand coverage to millions who lack it, crack down on insurance industry abuses and reduce federal deficits, by official estimate of the Congressional Budget Office.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said repeal would increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion over several years, a point Democrats are expected to exploit as they seek to derail the GOP campaign.

Republicans argue the law will explode spending rather than restrain it, and that its taxes are hampering job creation at a time when the nation is trying to recover from recession.

They also say it will interfere with the doctor-patient relationship. "This is a bill that is bad for patients, it's bad for providers, the nurses and the doctors and the physician assistants who take care of those patients, and it is bad for taxpayers," said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., an orthopedic surgeon in private life.

The Republican-controlled House voted last month to repeal the law, defying a veto threat from Obama as well as Reid's insistence that he would not call the bill up for a vote.

Even so, under the Senate's rules, McConnell has the ability to arrange for a vote, and he seized the first opportunity to do so since the new Congress convened a month ago.

"Everybody will have an opportunity to be on record. And I think it'll be clear who is for repeal and who isn't," he said.