Movers and Shakers: Price Pledges Health Care Fight, Takes Reins of GOP Policy Group

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Editor's note: The following is the first installment of a series on Movers and Shakers: Republican Leadership in the 112th Congress. The series looks at some of the newly prominent House Republicans who will decide GOP and legislative and policy priorities in the next Congress.

Rep. Tom Price has some bad medicine for the Obama administration.

The doctor and prominent conservative, who was at the vanguard of the anti-health care overhaul backlash, is set to take control next year of the Republican Policy Committee. At the helm of the GOP's Capitol Hill incubator for legislative ideas, the Georgia congressman is promising bold action -- and he'll probably be among the leading Republicans throwing up roadblocks and diversions as the administration tries to pave the way for full implementation of the health care law.

"The House will vote very early on to repeal the health care legislation," Price pledged.

Price is among a slew of GOP representatives poised to take on an expanded role when Republicans assume power next month in the House. He told his priorities will range from pushing for tax cuts to reforming entitlement programs to rolling back the "welfare" spending that gushed out of the stimulus law. But he described Republicans' much-hyped war plan against the health care law as potentially more than just a symbolic scrum.

Though President Obama would surely veto any repeal that clears Congress against the odds, Republicans are planning to methodically hold back funding for implementation. On top of that, Price said he'll be pushing forward with alternatives, ranging from proposals to crack down on lawsuit abuse to mechanisms making health care plans more portable -- concepts espoused most recently in his failed Empowering Patients First Act. Though both Price and the existing law call for federal aid to help low-income Americans purchase the care they need, Price said the key difference is that Republicans would not force anyone to buy that coverage.

To that end, he suggested that difference provides a wedge into the law. He said the frontline in the months ahead will be in the courts, as the Obama administration negotiates conflicting rulings over whether the so-called "individual mandate" is constitutional.

Price, first elected to Congress in 2004, will hop to the policy committee after chairing the conservative Republican Study Committee, a position he held with a degree of street cred during the health care debate -- having operated a private practice for two decades and taught medicine in Atlanta.

He'll also move over to the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. Price told that he plans to fight the Obama administration tooth-and-nail, should the president follow through and push for tax rates on the wealthy to rise in two years. Price also said he's looking forward to some bipartisan discussions on how to stabilize Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

But first, Price said he's on board with GOP proposals to take swipes at the budget early next year. He spoke positively about GOP leader John Boehner's pitch to cut some legislative budgets by 5 percent, and said Congress could save $100 billion off the bat by voting for a return to pre-bailout, pre-stimulus budget levels.

"One way or the other, we will decrease spending," Price said.

One budget-cutting proposal Price will not be endorsing, however, is a pitch to abolish the Republican Policy Committee itself. The outgoing chairman, Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich., over the summer proposed the idea as a way to defray the deficit, calling the policy committee redundant.

But Price said he hopes to rectify that.

"It is absolutely imperative that the Republican caucus have a policy committee," Price said. "I think Representative McCotter's concerns about the committee were appropriate, in that it had not been particularly relevant to the conference. And we look forward to working to make sure that it is."