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GOP legislators pledge to cut and investigate

But chances of getting changes past Senate, Obama are in doubt

Representative Fred Upton said he wants a vote on repealing the health care law before the State of the Union. Representative Fred Upton said he wants a vote on repealing the health care law before the State of the Union. (Associated Press)
By Larry Margasak
Associated Press / January 3, 2011

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WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers have an ambitious agenda for the new Congress that convenes Wednesday, including repealing some or all of the health care overhaul law.

Republicans also promise to cut spending and prevent unelected bureaucrats from expanding the government’s role in society through regulations that tell people what they must or can’t do.

Representative Fred Upton of Michigan, the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said yesterday that repealing the health care law is his top priority, and he is hoping for a vote before President Obama’s State of the Union address.

Repeal will be difficult because of the president’s veto power, but Upton said on “Fox News Sunday’’ that he thinks Republicans can garner enough Democratic support to override a veto. If they do not, they will try to dismantle the law piece by piece, he said.

Getting the GOP agenda through the House may be easier than in the Senate, given the party’s 241-to-194 majority in the House. Democrats still hold an edge in Senate, though it is smaller than the one Obama had during his first two years in the White House.

Even if the next two years end in gridlock, Republicans will have built a platform for the 2012 elections that they hope will demonstrate to voters that they can get it right.

House Republicans also pledged to hold tough investigations and hearings on the president’s programs and policies.

They said they will bring key administration officials before congressional microphones so that the public can watch the webcasts. The friendly tone of inquiry from Democratic chairmen will be replaced by Republicans demanding answers to questions such as these: What’s the purpose of this program? Is this the best use of the taxpayers’ money?

The chief Republican investigator, Representative Darrell Issa of California, is eager to get started, and he’s not alone. Issa, the incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has been especially critical of what he calls waste in Obama’s economic stimulus spending.

Issa will have subpoena power and can investigate any government program. He also wants to give subpoena power to inspectors general.

“The sooner the administration figures out that the enemy is the bureaucracy and the wasteful spending, not the other party, the better off we’ll be,’’ Issa said on the Fox program. He predicted that the investigations he is planning could result in about $200 billion in savings.

Representative Harold Rogers of Kentucky, incoming leader of the House Appropriations Committee, said he wants top officials from all major government agencies to appear and justify their spending.

Upton also said he will work to stop over-zealous government regulators. A big target for him is the Environmental Protection Agency, which is writing rules to limit greenhouse gases blamed for global warming after Obama’s effort to get Congress to do it stalled in the Senate last year.

“We are not going to let this administration regulate what they’ve been unable to legislate,’’ he said.

In the Senate, there’s a chance the Democrats will replace Republicans as the party of “no,’’ assuming the House GOP passes much of its agenda. Democrats will control the Senate, 51 to 47, with two independents, and they need only 41 votes to block initiatives that arrive from the House.

Among the reasons that the Republican agenda will probably have a bigger impact on the next election than on the day-to-day lives of most Americans are:

■ Much of the government spending has been politically untouchable. About 60 percent goes for entitlement programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The nation also is paying for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and major reconstruction projects in those countries. Both parties have considered it politically foolish to mess with Medicare and Social Security. Also, Republicans don’t have a clean record as budget cutters.

■ Obama may be more willing to compromise with Republicans than in his first two years, but he will fight repealing the health care law. Senate Democrats will almost certainly stop major revisions. If for some reason they don’t, Obama will use his veto to stop them.

■ Republican attempts to overturn regulations on issues such as global warming also could falter in the Senate.