Johanns: 'I would repeal the healthcare reform bill first'

After months of bruising debate over healthcare reform, Democratic leaders are happy to have the law passed and the nation's focus shift elsewhere.

Not so for some Republicans.

Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) said this weekend that, if November's elections were to shift congressional control to the Republicans, his first move would be a return to healthcare reform.

"I would repeal the healthcare reform bill first," he told the Lincoln Journal Star over the weekend. 

Although the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated the Democrats' reform bill would cut federal deficit spending by nearly $140 billion over the next decade, Johanns said the savings will never arrive. 

"It's not a balanced bill," he said. "It will add to the deficits."

Still, with President Obama certain to veto almost any repeal proposal that crosses his desk, Johanns conceded that full repeal is highly unlikely, regardless what happens in November. 

"There is so much about the law that is not a funding issue," he told the Journal Star. "We could not stop it dead in its tracks."

Instead, Republicans will likely adopt a repeal strategy that targets individual provisions of the reform bill, rather than aiming at the entire package.

Indeed, Johanns has already proposed to eliminate a provision of healthcare reform, unpopular among conservatives, requiring businesses to report more of their purchases to the IRS. 

By forcing businesses to pay the taxes they owe, the provision would generate more than $17 billion in government revenues over a decade, the CBO estimates. But the business lobby says the change would add burdensome new paperwork requirements that would cripple the ability of companies to hire new workers. 

A procedural vote on the Johanns bill is scheduled for Sept. 14.