Sen. Alexander: If not repeal, at least 'big changes' to healthcare law are expected

Republicans expect at least "big changes" to the new health reform law as a result of their efforts, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said Thursday.

Alexander, the third-ranking Republican member of the Senate, predicted that Republicans would be able to force major changes to the new healthcare system amidst pledges by many GOP candidates that they would seek to repeal the plan in its entirety. 

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The Tennessee Republican said he agreed with President Barack Obama's assertion that the healthcare bill was a proxy for a debate over the role in government in the U.S.

"And that's the debate we're going to have this year, and it's going to define every congressional race," Alexander told the editorial board of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "I think the healthcare bill will be the biggest symbol of it."

"As a result of that debate, I think there going to be at least big changes in the bill," Alexander added.

Healthcare is expected to be a central issue in this fall's campaign, and many Republicans have pledged to run on a pledge of repealing in whole the healthcare bill to have passed through Congress, which was signed into law by the president. 

But already, some Republicans have tempered their rhetoric on repeal, including Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), as well as Rep. Mark Kirk, a Republican candidate for Senate in Illinois.

Those more measured pledges reflect the difficulty facing Republicans in their plans, even if they were to pick up the number of seats predicted in the most generous estimates of this fall's elections. Democrats would still be able to throw up procedural roadblocks in Congress, and Obama could veto any legislation to repeal his signature domestic policy.

At least one Republican, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), did though suggest that the GOP is examining its options to sidestep a presidential veto in order to repeal healthcare law.