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Politics & Government

The GOP Strategy Behind Defunding Affordable Care Act


For more on today's vote and the Republican strategy behind it, I'm joined by Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state. She's chair of the House Republican Conference. Welcome to the program.


CORNISH: Now, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has already promised to send this bill the House has passed back to you. He would restore funding to the health care law. Now, do you think that Speaker Boehner would allow such a bill to come to the floor and let it pass with the help from Democrats?

RODGERS: Well, we'll see what the Senate does. I can't presume what the Senate is going to do today. I think it's important to note that the House has taken action, that the House has done the difficult job of governing, that we have passed a legislation that will keep the government open, that will control spending and that will defund the health care law, which more and more Americans recognize every day is unworkable.

CORNISH: Now, in the Senate, we've heard not just from Senate Democrats who say that they refused to pass any kind of delay or repeal of funds for the health care law. But also, we're hearing from Senate Republicans who are starting to criticize this approach. This is Senator John McCain, talking about the House's repeated efforts to defund the health care law.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: To somehow think we are going to defund it is simply not going to happen at this time, and it will, in my opinion, as I did before, harm the American people's view of the Republican Party.

CORNISH: So this idea of this doing harm to the public's view of the Republican Party, your reaction to that.

RODGERS: Mm-hmm. We don't - the Republicans do not want to shut down the government. It's important to note that portions of this law already have been defunded, already have been delayed. We have had seven pieces of legislation that had passed the House, passed the Senate, were signed by the president, the repeal of the class act, the repeal of the 1099 provision. And this is recognizing that this law is unworkable. And so, for Senator McCain to say that this isn't going to happen, I think it's premature. And we've already seen where portions of this law have been delayed, have been repealed, and that there's other portions that the president has taken action. We saw where the president, for example, recommended over the Fourth of July week that the employer mandate be delayed. He said that it's not ready for primetime and...

CORNISH: At the same time, what the House is doing today and has talked about doing, generally, is you are tying your effort to defund the health care law to, in this case, a stop-gap budget funding measure, right? And there's a - many people in polls are saying they don't want to see a government shutdown.

RODGERS: Republicans do not want to see a government shutdown.

CORNISH: So why tie the health care defunding to it?

RODGERS: It is a must-pass bill. And we also know that the American people do not believe that this law is ready for primetime, and that they see it unworkable. And they want to have a debate over what is the best way forward on health care and what...

CORNISH: So you believe the American people - they're willing to risk a government shutdown over the health care law? You think those things are linked?

RODGERS: I - what this would force - because this is a must-pass bill, it forces the debate to happen in the Senate. And it's clear that the House has taken action on numerous occasions. But what we need is for the Senate to have this debate, listen to their constituents, listen to the people that they represent and really debate whether or not we should be delaying this bill or if it's ready for primetime.

CORNISH: Do you have any concerns that more and more you're hearing from Senate Republicans who are criticizing the moves that the House is making, that are criticizing the idea of tying together defunding of the health care law with this budget resolution?

RODGERS: You know, the House has done its job, and what I would say is that the Senate needs to do its job.

CORNISH: But with a minority, it seems like you want every vote you can get, right, in the Senate in order to make what you're saying happen. And right now, it sounds like that support isn't fully there.

RODGERS: We have the majority in the House. And I don't know that we've ever been more unified than we are today, that we have these goals. As Republicans, we believe that the health care law is unworkable. It needs to be repealed. It needs to be replaced. We believe that we need to balance the budget in 10 years. We need to address out-of-control spending. We need to start living within our means, address the record debt that's been accumulated by President Obama. These are our shared goals. Now, sometimes, we differ on the particular play of the day, but those are our shared goals, and that's what we're going to continue to work to achieve as Republicans in Congress.

CORNISH: Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state. She's chair of the House Republican Conference. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

RODGERS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.