How Much Impact Can Republicans Actually Have on Health Care Law?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report With Bret Baier," January 19, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. ERIC CANTOR, R-VA., HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Leader Reid continues to say he is not going to bring this up for a vote in the Senate. The American people deserve a full hearing. They deserve to see this legislation go to the Senate for a full vote.


CHRIS WALLACE, GUEST HOST: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor refusing to bow to the conventional wisdom in Washington that today's House vote to repeal healthcare reform will go nowhere in the Senate.

Let's bring in our panel, Chris Stirewalt, Fox News politics editor digital, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

So Chris, the new Republican majority in the House keeps its campaign promises and votes to repeal health care reform. But given that the Senate Majority Leader Reid is also promising he is not even going to take up health care reform, what is the significance of today's vote?

CHRIS STIREWALT, FOX NEWS DIGITAL POLITICS EDITOR: I have to say I'm a little confused by the talk of symbolism that's going on in Washington. This is symbolic act, symbolic this, symbolic the other thing. This is what the legislative process looks like. One House passes a piece of legislation. The other House can take it up, push back.

They didn't say it was symbolic when Nancy Pelosi's Democratic House over the past two years, I believe it was 400 pieces of legislation or more they sent over to the Senate that didn't get taken up. This is the first -- this is the opening bid in a long hand that is going to be played out on this. And it's going to be fascinating to watch.

WALLACE: A.B., let's talk about the long hand because House Republicans kind of have conceded that it isn't going to go anywhere in the Senate. They're talking now about starting to chip away at health care reform, trying to roll back some of the provisions, trying to defund others. How do you see it playing out?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: I think with 26 states now challenging the law in court, it's likely, this program is going to be changed in some way. And I think with the legal challenges it will likely ends up being challenged in the courts.

I think the Republicans have the powerful, potent political statement vote today. I don't know, maybe someday, Harry Reid brings it up in the Senate. It doesn't look likely. They moved on to oversight hearing and trying to begin a campaign to chip away at the unpopular parts of the law and repeal incremental parts of it, which I think some Democrats in 2012 will have a hard time voting against.

But I really think they should tread carefully. The polling has shifted. I was surprised that it did, but it is shifting, and that means it could shift even further. There are appealing consumer protections coming in to effect now that the Democrats are now highlighting, and I'm just saying as they head in the campaign against health care, they should leave it up to the courts for a large part and just be careful of the fact that the winds of the polling --

WALLACE: Wait. You're saying that the House Republicans who were elected in large part for their opposition to health care reform should leave it to the courts?

STODDARD: No. I think they should go after the unpopular parts they know they can overturn and probably get Senate Democrats to agree with and actually send bills to the president's desk. They shouldn't be holding votes again and again or hearings that seem to look like a witch hunt and go nowhere if the polling on health care begins to shift as we have seen in the AP poll recently and ABC news poll about support for repeal dropping and intense opposition to the law dropping.

That is all I'm saying. It's likely to become a political liability if they don't focus on the number two issues to the voters, the economy, the jobs picture and deficit reduction.

WALLACE: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think what the Republicans have done is to signal that we are in the middle of a four-year debate on this issue. And I think an issue of this size, scope and importance, a sixth of the U.S. economy and the most intimate place where the government and the individual intersect, which is health care, essentially life and death, is worthy of a four-year debate.

The Democrats wanted to assume you pass it, it's behind them, they are not going to have to talk about it. I think Republicans are right it will not really be in place unless Obama is reelected. If there is a Republican reelected we would assume there is a Republican House and Senate, it will end up repealed. So, we ought to have a debate -- the vote today is symbolism, but it's the beginning of a campaign.

It's true I think there has been some shift in public opinion on this. That's why I think Republicans have to take it up --

WALLACE: Let me just -- shift in public opinion in favor of the Obama plan.

KRAUTHAMMER: Yes. The intensity of the opposition I think remains in place. The fact there are some goodies the Democrats used with bumper sticker ads --

WALLACE: Preexisting conditions, say on your parents' program --

KRAUTHAMMER: And the Republicans will have to answer that. They are objections to any repeal and the Republicans have to answer it. And they have to highlight what is wrong with it. This is a place to do it.

WALLACE: Real quickly, we have just a minute left. How much do you think they can actually do given they only control one-half of Congress and none of the White House, how much can Republicans actually do to chip away, chisel away at health care reform in the two years before the next election?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think little. I think they really cannot have an impact on the implementation of it in real life with control of only a single house. The only exception could be if they got the Senate to vote on the individual mandate, which if repeal eviscerates all of Obamacare. It can't stand without the mandate because it needs the revenues. That would be a fatal blow.

But in the absence of that, everything else I think is peripheral. But the point of the peripheral attacks is to highlight the difficulties, the problems and some of the absurdities of the bill and get it defeated in the presidential election and to make it a presidential issue.

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