WASHINGTON – The first cracks are appearing in the Tea Party’s push to dismantle the nation’s health care law as three House lawmakers with ties to the movement said they’d back a U.S. spending bill that doesn’t center on the Affordable Care Act.
GOP Reps. Blake Farenthold of Texas, Doug Lamborn of Colorado and Dennis Ross of Florida, all of whom identify with the Tea Party, said they’d back an agreement to end the government shutdown and lift the debt ceiling if it included major revisions to U.S. tax law, and significant changes to Medicare and Social Security, as well as other policy shifts.
The budget standoff started when Republicans insisted on tying funding for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare, to any spending resolution. The president has refused to negotiate.
“The president seems unwilling to give an inch on Obamacare, so, all right, where can we find other reforms?” Farenthold said in an interview at the Capitol on Saturday, just after a vote on giving furloughed workers retroactive pay. “If we can make the same or bigger difference doing something other than Obamacare, I don’t see why we wouldn’t do it.”
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, a leading voice in the fight against Obamacare, said a change to the law “has to be on the table.”
“A one-year delay is still reasonable to ask for,” Labrador said.
Lawmakers associated with the Tea Party pushed House Speaker John Boehner last month to fight for major changes to the plan as part of the budget debate. That stalemate led to the first government shutdown since 1996 and is now bleeding into a debate over the nation’s $16.7 trillion debt limit, which must be raised before Oct. 17 to avoid a U.S. default.
Lamborn said he would back a debt-limit increase if the agreement included an equal amount of spending cuts. He said he’s also seeking a deal that includes instructions for major tax-code revisions. “I recognize the writing on the wall.”
Farenthold was a conservative radio talk-show host when he won election in 2010, defeating 28-year incumbent Democrat Solomon Ortiz.
The battle over health care, he said, was for “another day.”
“It will collapse under its own weight, especially when the young people — who are going to be under the individual mandate — start screaming at what they’re having to pay for,” he said.
Farenthold said he’d back a spending deal with tax code changes and entitlement reforms aimed at “getting people who are able to work back to work.”