WASHINGTON - The House's new Republican majority plans to vote to repeal President Barack Obama's landmark health care overhaul before he even shows up in their chamber to give his State of the Union address.
Though full repeal is a long shot - the House vote would be just the first, easiest step - they'll follow up with dozens of attempts to hack away at what they call "Obamacare." The strategy is not risk-free for the Republicans, who won't have a replacement plan ready by the time of the repeal vote.
Senate Democratic leaders are sending their own message. In a letter yesterday to House Speaker-to-be John Boehner (R-Ohio), they served notice that they'll block any repeal, arguing it would kill popular provisions such as improved prescription coverage for Medicare.
The Obama administration intends to keep putting into place the law's framework for covering more than 30 million uninsured people. Obama does have his veto pen, and Republicans aren't anywhere close to the two-thirds majorities they would need to override.
Most likely, the health care debate will carry into the 2012 presidential election, when Obama is expected to seek a second term and House and Senate control will be up for grabs.
A single-minded focus on repeal could backfire as a Republican governing strategy. Polls show that some parts of the law are popular.
Look for Republicans to try to deny money for the government to carry out the law.
It's far from clear that they'll be able to prevail, however. There's talk that an effort to deny funding could escalate to the point of a possible government shutdown, and no one seems eager for that.