superfan1 (superfan1) wrote in ontd_political,

Test Ahead on Rhetoric in House

House Republicans plan to debate and vote next week on repealing last year's health-care overhaul in an early test of whether partisan rhetoric softens in the aftermath of the Arizona shootings.

The vote, originally scheduled for this week, was delayed after the attack Saturday that killed six people and seriously wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D., Ariz.), among others.

House Republican leaders now plan to begin debate on the measure next Tuesday. They expect to pass their repeal measure the next day and, later, pass another measure that instructs House committees to delve into new health legislation to replace the law passed last March.

The repeal vote will be largely symbolic because the measure lacks the support to pass in the Democrat-controlled Senate and would be vetoed in any case by President Barack Obama. But it kicks off a Republican drive to neuter the law by choking off its funding through the appropriations process and passing legislation to knock down the law's least-popular elements.

The repeal vote presents a delicate situation for Republicans, who had intended to use the event to showcase their fiery opposition to the law. The health debate has sparked sharp discourse on both sides, including threats to lawmakers. Ms. Giffords's district office was among those vandalized after she voted for the overhaul.

.Republicans say they are tightening their arguments to center on the party's policy objections to the law. "What it does point out is the importance of keeping the focus on the issue," said Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) of next week's debate. "My hope is that we will not see personal attacks."

The Arizona shooting "will help Congress to see a contentious debate a week from now through a little different eyes than perhaps would have happened otherwise," said Maine Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree.

So far, neither side is showing signs of significantly softening its approach. Shortly after the shootings, Ms. Pingree called on House GOP leaders to change the name of their bill—titled "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act"—on the grounds that "killing" sent the wrong message. "Gabby, of all people, is a person who wanted to tone down the rhetoric," she said.

The Maine Republican Party called the suggestion inappropriate. "Maine Congresswoman Needs to Stop Shameless Politicization of National Tragedy," read the headline of a statement quoting the state party chairman. House GOP aides indicate they have no plans to rename it.

Some Republicans say the repeal debate is an opportunity to elevate the tone of political discourse. "I think you can do this with a different kind of style," said Trey Grayson, Kentucky's secretary of state, who lost his bid for a Senate seat last year. "Have it more substantive. Explain why the bill is bad for employers, bad for the budget."

The night before she was shot, Ms. Giffords sent an email to Mr. Grayson. "I would love to talk about what we can do to promote centrism and moderation," Ms. Giffords wrote, according to a copy of the email provided by Mr. Grayson's office.

The health law is designed to expand insurance to 32 million Americans by giving lower earners tax credits to offset the cost of insurance and expanding the Medicaid federal-state insurance program for the poor.

Republicans say they have labeled it a "job killer" because they say the law's new taxes take money from employers that could go toward hiring workers. They also argue that it will cause federal spending to balloon over the long term by creating new entitlement programs, such as the law's long-term care insurance program. Democratic supporters of the law argue that the overhaul lowers employers' health-care costs, particularly for small businesses that get tax credits to offset the cost of coverage.

Supporters cite a Congressional Budget Office finding that repealing the law would increase the federal budget deficit by $230 billion over the next decade. That is partly because a repeal would wipe out the overhaul's tax increases and cuts to health-care provider payments in Medicare. Republicans say the CBO estimate is based on unrealistic assumptions.

Tags: congress, republican party

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