GOP split on health-law repeal strategy

Two conservative Republicans on Friday blasted House leaders for scheduling a vote to repeal an unpopular provision of the healthcare reform law.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Sen Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) wrote in the The Washington Times on Friday that a 2012 electoral debate focused simply on whether to repeal the law would "do our nation credit and do great service to the electorate."

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"Unfortunately, the clarity of that choice may soon be muddied, not by Democrats desperate to hide from their record, but inexplicably, by Republicans pushing a vote on a bill to undo one part of Obamacare: the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB)," the conservative lawmakers wrote.

The push to repeal the Medicare cost-cutting board, once seen as an easy way to force House Democrats to buck the president, has turned into yet another headache for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). Republican leaders forfeited any chance of getting significant Democratic support once they opted to pay for it by capping medical malpractice damages, and they are now facing a backlash from conservatives who worry piecemeal repeal bills can give vulnerable Democrats cover while making full repeal less likely.

Just before the newspaper published the lawmakers' op-ed, an array of conservative groups sent Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) a letter calling the IPAB repeal vote "misguided."

"We are gravely concerned that IPAB alone is being proposed for repeal and not part of a full repeal of Obamacare," reads the letter spearheaded by the Conservative Action Project. "This legislation is part of a troubling trend to break off the worst portions of Obamacare for individual votes, which muddies the water in this election year between those who are adamantly opposed to Obamacare and those who want to see its implementation."

The debate echoes conservative attacks against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who came under blistering criticism earlier this month after he told his conference that he would focus on gas prices and the economy instead of pushing for more repeal bills that are going nowhere in the Senate. In response, the conservative Restore America's Voice Foundation threatened to "unleash" its 2.3 million activists to call for McConnell's resignation if he didn't retract his comments.

After the threat was issued, McConnell vowed to make March "Repeal ObamaCare Month" and to work with his colleagues on how best to keep the spotlight on the law.