WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, new rules overseeing the Internet and administration plans to curb gas emissions will be scrutinized in congressional hearings, the Republican chairman of a House subcommittee said Friday.
The announcement by Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., was the latest signal from GOP leaders that they will use their control of the House over the next two years to aggressively pick through administration actions in a broad range of areas. Republicans are hoping to help their business allies and blunt some Obama initiatives while providing fodder for next year's presidential and congressional elections.
"My priority will be on job creation and removing government barriers to economic growth," Stearns said in a written statement.
Stearns said one target will be the office created by last year's health care law to help oversee the health insurance industry as new coverage requirements are phased in. He said he wants to examine how small businesses will be affected.
Stearns, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee's oversight panel, also said hearings will examine:
— The Environmental Protection Agency's plans to set standards for greenhouse gas emissions for oil refineries and power plants.
— Federal Communications Commission "net neutrality" rules, adopted last month, barring the telephone and cable companies that control the Internet from restricting content and services on their networks.
— Requirements on states dealing with Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for low-income people, and carbon dioxide emissions.
Underscoring how Republicans view Obama's policies, Stearns said that the greenhouse gas curbs could "cripple the economy" and that some governors have said Medicaid and carbon dioxide requirements "could lead to bankruptcy" for states.
Democrats have accused Republicans of using their planned hearings and investigation as political weapons and of trying to roll back progress made during the Obama administration's first two years. White House officials did not immediately provide any comment on Stearns' remarks.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has already said he plans to aggressively examine a wide variety of areas, including the $700 billion financial and auto industry bailout enacted under President George W. Bush; Obama's $814 billion economic stimulus program; the foreclosure crisis; leaks of government information such as the WikiLeaks disclosures; and food and drug recalls.
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., who heads the full Energy and Commerce Committee, has also discussed examining curbs on greenhouse gas emissions and the FCC's Internet rules.
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