Starve the Beast: The Republican Plan to De-Fund the Health Care Law

Republicans have made absolutely clear what they intend to do to block the new health care law -- starve it.

Incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, recently told Fox that "We can dent this, kick it, slow it down to make sure it never happens. And trust me," he emphasized, "I'm going to make sure this health care bill never ever, ever is implemented."

Brad Blakeman, who worked in the Bush White House agrees, saying, "They are going to be looking at the budget items that affect healthcare. They are going to be dissecting that 2000-page bill and picking apart those parts of the bill that can be defunded now."

Jim Kessler, the vice president for policy at Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank, offers this analogy for the Republican strategy: "You have a car -- that's the health care bill. And they're doing enough things to mess up the engine, to make it only drive at 45 miles and hour, not 65 miles an hour. But it's still a car, it's still driving and it's still going to get there."

It'll just take longer, he says, but stopping the funding won't stop the law, only complicate it, according to Kessler. "The law is not contingent on funding. Just how effectively it will be implemented is contingent on funding."

Republicans have already succeeded in blocking the first billion dollars in money to implement the health care law. It was part of the omnibus spending bill with six thousand earmarks that was killed in the Senate.

It was replaced by a temporary spending measure to keep the government running until March 4, 2011. The next budget bill is likely to bring the first big battle over funding the health care law.

There is one point of bipartisan agreement -- repealing a provision that requires a small business to file an IRS 1099 form for every person to whom they pay more than $600 in a year. Lawmakers in both parties agree that is an unreasonable burden on small business.

Don Holler of advocacy group Heritage Action says, "That's very costly, the burden ads up very quickly and makes hiring for small businesses very difficult."

Which is why it has bipartisan support. The measure was only added to the health care bill to bring down the price tag on the theory that new tax collections would raise money.

But Steve Hyde, an independent health expert, doesn't think much of it. "The law probably creates... 15 or 20 thousand new IRS jobs," he said, "It doesn't create a single new doctor job."

So the Republican strategy seems clear.

They say their hope is to defund and stall the health law's implementation, at least until they have more power to stop it.

Brad Blakeman says Republicans are taking the long view, "Hopefully we'll be able to defund and stall enough of the implementation that we'll make it into 2012, hopefully with a new president and perhaps take the majority in the Senate."

Which would be well ahead of 2014, when the health care law would take full effect. Many Republicans, of course, would like to repeal it right now, but the Senate could block that and even if it didn't, the President would veto it.

So conservatives are using the only tool at their disposal -- trying to stop or slow the law's implementation.