Republican leaders acknowledged Sunday that an outright repeal of the health care reform law -- something they told voters during the campaign they would try to do -- was not within their power while President Barack Obama is in office, but they vowed to pursue a strategy of taking it apart piece-by-piece.
"If we can put a full repeal on his desk and replace it with the kind of common-sense reforms that we were advocating during the debate to reduce spending, we owe it to the American people to do that," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
"If that fails, then we're willing to look at all of the various pieces of this as they become effective and how we might impact trying to carry out our commitment to the American people to keep this awful 2,700-page monstrosity that took over one-sixth of our economy from going into effect," McConnell said.
"What we're doing in my office is looking for the various parts of it that are subject to funding. And we will be revisiting this issue time after time. The American people expect us to."
Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who is slated to head the House Budget Committee when Republicans take over next year, lowered somewhat the expectations of what the party could achieve, saying that while "we can defund specific actual roll-outs of this law ... the president has to sign those bills, so that is a challenge."
He expressed hope that efforts by those state attorneys generals who are challenging provisions of the health care law in the courts would prove to be successful.
But short of that, he said, "You can't fully repeal and replace this law until you have a new president and a better Senate. And that's probably in 2013, but that's before the law fully kicks in in 2014."
The New York Times reported Sunday
that the Republican strategy includes limiting money for the Internal Revenue Service so it could not aggressively enforce the provisions of the law that require people to obtain coverage and employers to help pay for it. That provision of the law depends heavily on the fact that those who don't comply would face tax penalties.
As other targets of financing, the Times cited a Congressional Budget Office report that said the IRS will need $5 billion to $10 billion over 10 years to determine who is eligible for tax credits and other health care subsidies, with the Department of Health and Human Services needing an equal amount of time to carry out other changes mandated by the law.
Republican leaders also plan to use spending bills to block other elements of the law to which they are object.
Fresh from midterm election victories in which the sweeping health care measure was often an issue, the GOP strategy is also aimed at forcing Democrats into a series of votes on an array of provisions to get them on record in advance of the 2012 elections.
On CNN's "State of the Union," Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, a possible GOP presidential contender in 2012, said, "I'm doing everything I can ... to stop, delay or avoid its implementation in my state, including signing an executive order saying we're not going to participate unless required by law or approved by me."