Tue | Jul 17, 2018

Republicans primed for push to dismantle Obama's policies

Published:Wednesday | January 4, 2017 | 12:18 AM


Members of the 115th Congress were sworn in yesterday, setting off an aggressive campaign by Republicans who control the House and Senate to dismantle eight years of President Barack Obama's Democratic policies.

The first and biggest target is Obama's signature health care law, which Republicans have long sought to gut and blamed as a primary cause for a lackluster economic recovery. President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday encouraged a wholesale overhaul of the system, tweeting hours before the new Congress convenes: "Obamacare just doesn't work," is unaffordable "and, it is lousy health care."

Majority Republicans also are targeting decades-old programmes that millions of Americans rely on every day, such as Social Security and Medicare as they seek to shrink both the size of the federal budget and the bureaucracy in Washington.

"We have a lot to do - and a lot to undo," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a letter to fellow Republicans.

There were signs of Republican-on-Republican drama even before the new Congress officially opened on Tuesday. House Republicans on Monday night voted to defy their leaders and gut the chamber's independent ethics panel created in 2008 to probe charges of lawmaker misconduct after several corruption scandals sent members to prison.

Lawmakers would have the final say on their colleagues under the change approved 199-74 over arguments from House Speaker Paul Ryan, McCarthy, and other GOP leaders. Some members said they have felt unfairly targeted by the independent panel, and Kellyanne Conway, a top adviser to Trump, said on ABC that there had been "overzealousness" under the old system. Republican Marsha Blackburn told CNN Tuesday that the idea was to give accused lawmakers more information about who was making charges against them. Others complained that the move would clear a path to corruption.

Democrats will try to block the far-reaching conservative agenda by swaying public opinion and using the power they have in the Senate to filibuster legislation. But that strategy has its political limitations. Twenty-three Senate Democrats are up for re-election in 2018, including 10 from states won by Trump, and they could break ranks and side with the GOP.