Bank laws, health on Republican post-vote agenda

WASHINGTON Wed Sep 22, 2010 3:56pm EDT

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) speaks at the Reuters Washington Summit, September 22, 2010. REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) speaks at the Reuters Washington Summit, September 22, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Hyungwon Kang

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Chipping away at the Obama administration's biggest legislative achievements -- healthcare and Wall Street reform -- will be the top goal for Republicans after the November 2 congressional election, three of the party's senior senators said.

With voters expected to sweep more Republicans into Congress in November, the senior senators targeted particular aspects of President Barack Obama's two major reforms but acknowledged that wholesale repeals were not on the cards.

Senator Lamar Alexander told the Reuters Washington Summit on Wednesday that Republicans will lack the veto-proof numbers in the Senate to repeal the healthcare program, so instead they will move to make changes "step by step."

"I'd like to see some repeal of the onerous provisions in the healthcare law that make it more expensive to create jobs," Alexander said in Reuters' Washington office.

For example, he said insurance companies should be allowed to sell policies across state lines, which he said would boost competition and reduce prices.

He said Republicans favor cracking down on "junk lawsuits" that he said drive up the cost of healthcare and being more aggressive in rooting out waste and fraud in Medicare, the government-administered program for seniors, which he said amounts to about $55 billion a year.

Another senior Republican, Judd Gregg, said the Obama administration should "go back and look at the failures that are becoming very apparent in their healthcare bill and the fact that that's contracting business."

Gregg, who is retiring after the election, said the administration should "go back and look at the fact that the financial reform bill is significantly contracting credit."

Gregg, Alexander and Republican Senator Richard Shelby all sharply criticized the new financial consumer watchdog being set up in the Federal Reserve under the Wall Street reforms and said Republicans will try to make changes to it.

Alexander said Congress needs to "make this big consumer agency that has been created more accountable to elected representatives."

Specifically, he said, he wants to force the bureau to seek its funding through Congress. As established, it will get its funding directly from the Fed.

The senators also lashed out at the Wall Street reform bill's failure to deal with fixing troubled mortgage giants Fannie Mae (FNMA.OB) and Freddie Mac (FMCC.OB), both known as government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs.

Overhauling Fannie and Freddie will be a top post-election priority for Republicans in Congress, Shelby told the Reuters summit said on Monday.

"We'll still have to deal with the president. He says he's wanting to do it and we'll give him a chance," Shelby said. "GSE reform has got to be a high priority."

(Reporting by Kevin Drawbaugh, Thomas Ferraro and Margaret Chadbourn; Editing by John O'Callaghan)