The Hill offers a preview of next year’s inevitable health care skirmishes:
Republicans leaders in the House have pledged to hold an up-or-down vote to repeal the healthcare law President Obama signed last year.
Once passed, however, this bill will be dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Instead, the GOP is expected to try to withhold funding for the new law in the budget, hoping to impede its implementation.
Democrats will fight any defunding attempts aggressively; incoming House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the departing Speaker, has already signaled that protecting Democratic gains of the last two years — and healthcare reform is the signature domestic policy achievement of the Obama presidency — will be a top party priority.
While Democrats will likely back tweaks to the healthcare law, such as removing an unpopular IRS reporting requirement for small businesses, Speaker-designate John Boehner (R-Ohio) will face pressure from Tea Party-backed freshmen to insist on deeper revisions or cuts. If the parties reach an impasse on healthcare funding, the GOP could use the issue as a bargaining chip to extract spending-cut concessions from Obama elsewhere in the budget.
Democrats convinced themselves early on that if they won the legislative battle and passed the bill, the law would become popular, and that the law's eventual popularity would help dampen Republican enthusiasm for fighting it. If anything, the opposite has happened. Polling indicates that the law has grown slightly less popular in recent months. That’s going to continue to provide fuel for Republicans who want to shut it down. The GOP obviously won’t be successful in repealing the law before 2012, but as The Hill's story notes, the law’s unpopularity has given them an edge in legislative negotiation.
So from a purely political perspective, the health care overhaul has been nothing but a burden. Not only did the law fail to provide any boost at the polls in November as many Democrats expected, it’s now put them in a weakened negotiating position as they’re forced to defend it.