Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday criticized the first week of ObamaCare as a system that threatens to fine people for failing to buy health insurance on websites that don’t work.
“How can we tax people for not buying a product from a website that doesn’t work?” he asked on the House floor.
Boehner’s comments come as GOP leaders have shifted from attacks on ObamaCare in the context of the government shutdown and debt-ceiling fight, a move that has irritated some conservatives.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in an op-ed published Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal, for example, called for Washington to agree to a small bargain to reopen the government and lift the debt ceiling.
Ryan focused on changes to Medicare and tax cuts but didn’t mention the healthcare law. Ryan, a conservative and the GOP vice presidential candidate in 2012, retains a great deal of clout with rank-and-file members. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) also didn’t mention ObamaCare in an op-ed published Wednesday on The Washington Post’s website.
The omissions have riled conservatives who pushed Republicans to demand that ObamaCare be defunded, an effort that led to the government shutdown that entered its ninth day Wednesday.
Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham said the group would only support a plan to reopen the government if it also defunds ObamaCare and pushed back against Ryan’s op-ed.
“Anything that comes out of this has to address the core fight, which is ObamaCare,” Needham said during a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. “The only acceptable way out of this is some sort of deal that funds the federal government without funding ObamaCare.”
The Tea Party Patriots also blasted Ryan’s move.
“Not once did Mr. Ryan mention the program that is hurting hard-working Americans. We must remember the reason we are fighting and remain united in our opposition to ObamaCare,” Tea Party Patriots Coordinator Jenny Beth Martin said.
Boehner’s comments may have been aimed at soothing such concerns.
He said press reviews of ObamaCare so far have not been kind, and he quoted accounts calling it an “inexcusable mess” and a “rolling calamity.”
“Consumers face dramatically higher rates,” he said. “Many remain locked out. They’re surprised their premiums went up. Instead of making it easier for people to get health insurance, it’s going to be a lot tougher.
“What a train wreck,” he said.
Boehner also slammed the Obama administration for giving companies a yearlong delay before they have to provide health insurance, while still requiring individuals to buy insurance.
“This is why we need to sit down and have a conversation about the big challenges that face our country,” said Boehner, who has ripped the White House for not talking to congressional Republicans to end the stalemate.
Boehner spoke just after he and Cantor met with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) at the request of the two Democrats. No progress appeared to be made at the summit.
Besides reopening the government, lawmakers must contend with an Oct. 17 deadline for raising the government’s borrowing limit. If it isn’t raised, the government could default or hold up payments on Social Security benefits and military pay.
Communications between the White House and congressional leaders have picked up, the only real sign of urgency in the fiscal fights.
Boehner and Obama spoke on the telephone Tuesday, and Obama will meet with House Democrats Wednesday afternoon.
Obama also plans on meeting with House Republicans and congressional leaders in the coming days.
The House is planning to be in session for a third Saturday in a row this weekend.