Health Reform Update: Americans give thanks that the election is over!

Cathy Betz
Written by Cathy Betz
on November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American tradition. This year, we count among our many blessings the fact that the most contentious, most polarizing, most dramatic election season is now over.

In a victory of truly epic proportions, Republicans captured control of the U.S. House of Representatives and expanded their voice in the U.S. Senate on Election Day, riding a wave of voter discontent as they dealt a major setback to President Barack Obama just two years after his triumphal victory.

Voters across the spectrum, particularly independents, issued a restraining order against the dysfunction in Washington and the perceived “expensive failure” of two years of the Obama Administration. Voters declared loud and clear: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this any more.”

Health Reform Law a defining issue
In many races across the country, the impact of the health reform law (both the substantive policy and the politics surrounding its passage) seemed to be a defining issue among voters. While general themes of the economy, jobs, and government spending led the list of voter concerns, a large number of newly-elected Republicans and those who return to Washington bring with them a mandate (real or perceived) to repeal the law.

Various polls show that approximately 50% of Americans want the law repealed – which also means that 50% do not. This divided public opinion about the signature domestic policy priority of President Obama mirrors the makeup of the 112th Congress.

How will the election results affect implementation of the health care reform law?
A Republican House will almost certainly vote to repeal the law in January. However, such a repeal would be “dead on arrival” in the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to pass significant legislation and where Democrats still hold a small majority. Further backed up by a presidential veto, which can only be overridden by a two-thirds supermajority in the House and Senate, congressional Republicans will have to seek other ways to modify, strengthen, or defeat the health reform law. They will likely try by addressing certain provisions of the law deemed unpopular, too expensive, or too burdensome.

So, the viability of any repeal effort, or any effort to pass major amendments, will require Republicans to put a plan on the table that is compelling. I have no idea what that is, based upon what I heard the candidates and the Republican leadership say during the campaign.

President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have expressed some willingness to work with the Republicans to modify the health reform law. At the end of the day, however, it remains unclear whether a divided Congress and President Obama will agree to substantive changes to the health reform law, which is not yet eight months old.

The 2012 election
With their eyes on the 2012 election, Republicans are preparing to maximize conflict with Democrats over issues like healthcare in the new Congress and minimize potential compromises, according to GOP strategists, lawmakers and lobbyists. That strategy is setting the stage for a bitter stalemate on Capitol Hill over the next two years.

Until then, let’s all enjoy some turkey and gravy.

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