Just over half of Americans likely to vote in next week’s midterms want the next Congress to repeal this year’s health care overhaul if Republicans gain power on Capitol Hill, according to a new poll, a dramatic rebuke to a sitting president and freshly minted statute.
Fifty-one percent of voters most likely to vote support taking the new health care law off the books if the GOP takes the House and Senate, or either, while 41 percent oppose repeal, according to the latest Society for Human Resource Management/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, conducted with the Pew Research Center.
Those results are part of an overall hit-and-miss response Republicans draw from those surveyed about the party’s broader agenda.
Among registered voters, 49 percent side with repeal in the event of Republican success next Tuesday, breaking down to a solid 81 percent among members of the GOP, 53 percent among independents and just 23 percent of Democrats.
That dynamic — the majority of next week’s likely electorate standing directly opposed to President Obama’s cornerstone legislative achievement — points to the challenge Democrats face in stemming this year’s GOP tide, and how difficult it has been for the party in power to explain one of its toughest votes.
Their dilemma was on display as recently as Sunday, when West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat who supported the law but is now running in a tight race for Senate, said he would have opposed it had he known how far-reaching the bill was. The governor, who remains very popular among West Virginia voters, has been portrayed by his Republican opponent, John Raese, as being a rubber stamp for Obama. When polling started to show the race tightening, Manchin changed his tune on the law. Manchin made his remarks on “Fox News Sunday.”
While stripping the entire health care statute appears unlikely, particularly with the likelihood that Obama would veto such a move, Republicans have said they would like to strike certain provisions of the law, such as the mandates that individuals procure coverage and that employers provide it.
Democrats argue that those elements of the complicated law are tied to its more popular features such as guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Up against a likely veto, even if such repeal measures pass Congress, Republicans could try end-runs that nibble at the law, like handcuffing it through appropriations or stopping the IRS’s ability to impose the tax penalties.
Separately, 20 states are pressing ahead with a federal lawsuit aimed at declaring the law unconstitutional because of the individual mandate and the Medicaid expansion’s burden on states to increase their own programs under a requirement to extend coverage to more low-income people. That suit is one of roughly a dozen suits targeting the law, which Obama signed in March.
While Republican senators or Senate candidates have been less concrete in their policy pronouncements, and stand to absorb a considerable number of tea-party candidates poised to pick up seats, the House GOP is pushing its “Pledge to America,” an echo of the “Contract with America” that former Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., brandished along the way to the 1994 Republican takeover of the House when Gingrich became speaker.
A number of elements of the “Pledge” dealt with questions polled in the Congressional Connection survey, including health care repeal and the permanent prohibition of publicly funded abortions.
Many of these pillars of the Republican agenda have failed to gain much traction with the public. Just 42 percent of likely voters, for instance, want GOP gains on Capitol Hill to lead to permanently extending Bush-era tax cuts for families whose annual income exceeds $250,000, while 52 percent oppose the extension.
The same percentage supported new federal laws that imposed greater restrictions on abortions, while 51 percent disapproved of passing new laws restricting abortion.
“It’s a mixed view of the [Republican] proposals that have been talked about — some positive some negative,” said Carroll Doherty, associate director at the Pew Research Center.
Voters, too, provided a warning to any overly eager Capitol Hill Republicans who might be thinking about using the next couple of years sharpening their subpoena skills for use against Obama’s administration, possibly emblematic of the popular mandate for policymakers to focus on the economy and creating jobs. Fifty-four percent of likely voters disapproved of “major investigations of the Obama administration,” 13 points higher than those who approved of conducting such probes.
House Oversight and Government Reform ranking member Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who stands to take over the House Oversight Committee under a GOP speaker, has reportedly said he will zero in on pensions, Medicare waste, paring back the U.S. Postal Service, and abuses at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.