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House GOP Chairwoman: ‘Probably Not Realistic’ to Defund or Repeal Obamacare

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers conceded on Thursday that it’s “probably not realistic” to expect to achieve a full dismantling of Obamacare in the 113th Congress.

According to the Spokesman-Review, McMorris Rodgers offered her predictions for the future of the health care law following a town hall meeting in her home district of Spokane, Wash.

“To get the entire bill repealed, or defunded, is probably not realistic,” she said. “But I do think that there are provisions in the law what we can get delayed, or provisions in the law we can get defunded.”

On Friday, a spokeswoman for McMorris Rodgers told CQ Roll Call that the fourth-most-senior House Republican was as committed as anybody else to repealing the health care law but that she was cognizant of political reality.

“Her comment was in no way a concession that we need to let Obamacare stand,” the spokeswoman said in an email. “She’s 100 percent focused on dismantling and defunding the law so we can replace it with smarter solutions that actually help the American people. In this context, she was merely referencing the strong unlikelihood that the President would repeal his own law — and the need for Republicans to focus on what they can dismantle.”

Her comments on Thursday evening following a town hall meeting in her home district comes on the heels of calls by conservative members of the Republican Conference to defund the 2010 health care law in any bill to keep the government open past Sept. 30. Leadership has also eyed tying Obamacare rollbacks to legislation extending the debt limit later this fall.

Speaker John A. Boehner hasn’t yet ruled out a defunding fight, but in remarks to his flock Thursday, he sought to put the focus of any shutdown fight on Obama and the sequester, a fight the speaker believes Republicans will win, while reiterating his plan to “chip away” at Obamacare. Many of Boehner’s allies in both the House and the Senate have come out forcefully against shutting down the government over Obamacare in recent weeks, arguing that Obama would never sign a bill gutting his signature legislative initiative.

McMorris Rodgers outlined the ways in which the GOP in the months ahead will work to systematically chip away at many of those provisions.

“I think there’s growing recognition that … portions of the law are not ready,” said McMorris Rodgers, who reportedly went on to predict that in the case of “several provisions” there could be enough bipartisan opposition to successfully overturn them.

Earlier on Thursday, another Republican leadership aide told CQ Roll Call that when it comes to negotiating on the debt limit, a delay of the individual mandate and codification of the business mandate delay are two more bite-sized avenues to be explored. The White House, which has vowed not to negotiate over the debt ceiling, dismissed the idea.

Meanwhile, also on Thursday, Heritage Action for America spokesman Dan Holler suggested it wasn’t out of line for Republicans to demand a full-scale take-down of the health care law as part of a larger strategy to stop the law.

“Think back to what Republicans did in 2011,” said Holler, harking back to consideration of a massive continuing appropriations bill that contained spending cuts so huge President Barack Obama pledged to veto it and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., scoffed at the premise that it would have a vote in his chamber. “The reason they got a $30 billion cut at the end is because they drove a really hard bargain at the outset. They weren’t afraid of the veto threats that were coming from the White House.”