Sen. Hatch says right shouldn't expect supercommittee to tackle healthcare law

Conservatives should forget about dismantling the healthcare law through the supercommittee, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Tuesday. 

Because half of the new deficit-slashing panel's members are Democrats, Republicans will have to settle for more meager changes — at least for now, Hatch told the conservative Heritage Foundation. 

Congressional committees' recommendations to the supercommittee are due Friday; Hatch is the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over parts of the healthcare law. But Democrats hold a majority in the Senate. 

"They are going to have to be suggestions where I can get most all of the members of the Finance Committee together," Hatch said in a speech Tuesday. "I don't know how deeply they will go into healthcare. I can tell you this, the Democrats will be fighting to keep ObamaCare and I don't know if we can break through that Iron Curtain. Maybe that is not quite the analogy I should use, although it is pretty apt." 

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Hatch said one of the most important things for the supercommittee to realize is that healthcare costs are a leading driver of the national deficit and have been exacerbated by Democrats' healthcare reform law. He said a major failure of the Simpson-Bowles committee formed last year to make similar recommendations was its decision not to address the new law. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, however, repealing the law would increase the deficit.

Hatch went on to say that suggestions to start taxing employer-sponsored health coverage — including in President Obama's original jobs bill — would be inadvisable and unpopular.

Hatch's speech centered on what he described as economic and constitutional issues with the healthcare law. He cited statistics from a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey that found healthcare costs have increased since the law was enacted in March 2010.

Hatch has introduced legislation to repeal both the employer and individual mandates of the healthcare law. And he applauded the recent Supreme Court announcement that the high court will rule on the constitutionality of the mandate.

Hatch went on to accuse the Obama administration of using the law as a stepping stone to bring about a single-payer healthcare system, predicting that if the president is reelected in 2012 that will be high on the agenda.

According to Hatch, the president's healthcare law is part of a larger ideology that favors government over the individual. Hatch used the recent protest movement against Wall Street to illustrate his point: moments before his speech, a group of protesters made their way into the Senate Office buildings. 

While Hatch praised their right to voice concerns, he said they were wrongheaded.

"I would be the first to stand up for their rights, but many of them are part of this welfare state that developed in this country," Hatch said. "And it is getting worse and worse and worse. And ObamaCare is a big part of it."