WASHINGTON — Republicans are serious. Hopeful of picking up substantial numbers of seats in the congressional elections, they are developing plans to try to repeal or roll back President Obama’s new health care law.
This goal, although not fleshed out in a detailed legislative proposal, is much more than a campaign slogan. That conclusion emerged from interviews with a range of Republican lawmakers, who said they are determined to chip away at the law if they cannot dismantle it.
House Republicans are expected to include some specifics in an election agenda they intend to issue Thursday. Although they face tremendous political and practical hurdles to undoing a law whose provisions are rapidly going into effect, they are laying the groundwork for trying.
For starters, Republicans say they will try to withhold money that federal officials need to administer and enforce the law. They know that even if they managed to pass a wholesale repeal, Obama would veto it.
“They’ll get not one dime from us,’’ the House Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, told The Cincinnati Enquirer recently.
“Not a dime. There is no fixing this.’’
Republicans also intend to go after specific provisions. Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, a senior Republican on the Finance Committee, has introduced a bill that would eliminate a linchpin of the new law: a requirement for many employers to offer insurance to employees or pay a tax penalty. Many Republicans also want to repeal the law’s requirement for most Americans to obtain health insurance.
But it sounded like a therapy session for disillusioned Obama supporters.
In question after question during a one-hour session, which took place yesterday at the Newseum here and was televised on CNBC, Obama was confronted by people who sounded frustrated and anxious — even as some said they support his agenda and proclaimed themselves honored to be in his presence.
People from Main Street wanted to know if the American dream still lived for them. People on Wall Street complained that he was treating them like a piñata, “whacking us with a stick,’’ in the words of Anthony Scaramucci, a former law school classmate of Obama who runs a hedge fund and was one of the president’s questioners.
“I’m exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for,’’ said the first questioner, a black woman who identified herself as a chief financial officer, a mother, and a military veteran. “I’ve been told that I voted for a man who was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class and I’m waiting sir, I’m waiting.’’
The extraordinarily personal tone of the session, coupled with more substantive policy questions from the host, John Harwood of CNBC and The New York Times, reflects the erosion of support for Obama among the constituencies that sent him to the White House two years ago.