Republicans are using tough new tactics to disrupt President Obama's second-term agenda and appointments, beginning to step up their fight six months after the party's presidential election defeat.
Minority Republicans in the Senate this week boycotted a committee vote on the president's nominee for EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy. Separately, they delayed another panel vote on the president's pick for Labor secretary, Thomas Perez, for a second time.
The moves were blasted by Democrats as continued obstruction by an obstinate party.
"This is a pattern," Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said. "This is a pattern of blocking President Obama's confirmation votes on his key Cabinet positions."
But they come as Congress approaches yet another election year, with Republicans trying to get back on offense.
In addition to the nomination delays, Republican leaders fired off a letter this week to the president refusing to appoint anyone to an ObamaCare panel meant to hold down Medicare costs.
The Independent Payment Advisory Board, as it is called, has been criticized in the past as a "death panel" -- reflecting concerns that it would be used to deny care to seniors -- though supporters say it would not ration care.
The letter from House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell cited concerns about access to care. "Because the law will give IPAB's 15 unelected, unaccountable individuals the ability to deny seniors access to innovative care, we respectfully decline to recommend appointments," they wrote.
Further, Boehner announced that for the 40th time since it became law, the federal health care law will again be subject to a repeal vote, so the new 2013 class of conservatives can vote to eliminate it too.
"They've been asking for an opportunity to vote on it, and we're going to give it to them," Boehner said.
Obama adamantly defended the health care law, and the protections it providers to consumers, during remarks at the White House on Friday.
Citing last year's election, Obama said: "The law is here to stay."
Republicans are also again positioning for the next increase in the federal debt ceiling and making it clear that spending reductions, as well as tax and entitlement reform, can no longer be ignored.
"The president's going to finally have to start working with us if we're going to get the economy back on track," Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., said.
Though the president hosted Republicans at the White House and has undertaken a so-called charm offensive with the GOP, Democrats on the Hill take Republicans' recent moves as signs that the GOP increasingly considers Obama a lame duck -- and more gridlock looms.
Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., described what lies ahead as "yet another round of obstructionism, another round of hostage-taking and another round of trying to block anything that Obama does."