Top Line: The New Congress, Re-Selling Health Care Reform and Adult Moments

Jan 6, 2011 2:24pm

ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf reports:

House Democrats, chastened by voters in November, are newly in the minority on Capitol Hill. But they’re not shy about defending their signature achievement of the past two years – passage of the sweeping health reform law last March.

Even though most of the law won’t go into effect for another three years, Democrats got good news today when the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted it would add $143 billion to the deficit to repeal the proposal.

The Republicans who now control the House plan a vote Jan. 12th on a full repeal of the law.

"They talk about repeal,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., on ABC’s Top Line Thursday. “But what they don’t do is to talk about what they will replace healthcare (bill) with.” 

Democrats are clearly excited to get a second shot at selling the health reform bill, this time from the perspective of what voters will lose by repealing it. They fared poorly last year in making their arguments to pass the bill.

“First of all, this healthcare bill, what (Republicans) would do by repealing it is they do not protect the middle class. Secondly, they will increase the deficit by $143 billion. And, in fact, they will lay off people and create more unemployment. But, who, what senior do you know, your mother, your grandmother, who may be eligible for getting 50% of the cost of a prescription drug as a rebate want to give that up,” asked DeLauro.

But, it was pointed out to her, the voters heard these arguments last year and opted for 64 new Republicans in the House.

“Look, you would like to say that the result was because of the healthcare bill. I think you were looking at 9.8% unemployment in the United States,” said DeLauro, launching into a recitation of Democrats plan to revitalize the economy. 

Despite the symbolic gesture of the House voting to repeal the President’s signature achievement, DeLauro brushed off the impending vote.

“The fact of the matter is, they are not going to repeal healthcare and it is political theater. We need to stop them at every turn. I believe the public will ultimately stop them because of the benefits of the healthcare bill,” she said.

On the other looming debate on Capitol Hill – whether to raise the National Debt Limit beyond $14.3 Trillion, DeLauro said Republicans will have to vote for it.

“The Republican party is now in charge, they have to govern, they have to get a majority to pass a raising of the debt limit. That is their responsibility. We will wait to see as to what they juxtapose against that, but it is now their responsibility,” she said, paraphrasing a comment that newly minted Speaker John Boehner , the Ohio Republican, made about the debt ceiling debate requiring adult conversation.

“I think the new Speaker understands that, in fact, it is the major adult vote that they will have to case. We will have to see if they’re willing to be adults and to cast it,” DeLauro said.

Regarding Boehner, also on Top Line was National Journal’s Major Garrett, who has a behind-the-scenes look at Boehner and the new majority appearing in National Journal on Friday. 

Garrett talked about how Boehner is trying to bring his own persona to the Speakership and control the House in smoother way than Nancy Pelosi or Newt Gingrich did.

But already, Garrett said, Boehner is running into problems. In order to pass the health reform repeal bill, Republicans are using a closed debate process – something they criticized Democrats for doing and promised on the campaign trail they would not do.

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