Republicans Pivot from Obamacare For Now, Not Forever

Republicans seek new wish list as government shutdown drags on.

House Speaker John Boehner, joined by fellow Republicans, emerges from a closed-door GOP meeting to announce advance legislation to temporarily extend the government's ability to borrow money to meet its financial obligations, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013.
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House Republican leaders introduced a plan Thursday that would raise the debt ceiling for six weeks and give Congress a chance to negotiate a long-term solution to the country's debt problem without the threat of a looming default.

The country must increase the debt ceiling by Oct. 17 or else market analysts warn the consequences could be dire for the country's already fragile economy.

The GOP plan introduced Thursday would give Republicans and Democrats another window of opportunity to reform the tax code and entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security. What was missing from the announcement, however, was the very piece of legislation that landed the government in a shutdown in the first place: the Affordable Care Act.

[READ: Obama, House Republicans to Meet Amid Talk of Deal]

 

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told members of his conference Thursday it was time to refocus the fight. No one the GOP's leadership team uttered a word about Obamacare during the press conference.

"I would hope that the president will look at this as an opportunity and a good-faith effort on our part to move halfway, halfway to what he's demanded, in order to have these conversations begin," Boehner said.

It was the GOP's insistence 10 days ago to delay the individual mandate, a key component of Obamacare, that forced the federal government to shut its doors. Republicans in the House sent the Senate bill after bill to defund, delay or dismantle the law up until the last minute. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, launched a 21-hour talkathon on Sept. 24 fighting for the plan in the Senate. He read "Green Eggs and Ham," and railed against his establishment GOP colleagues for helping advance a bill that could keep the government funded without any concessions to Obamacare.

But for now it looks like the president's health care law could escape unscathed.

Even House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., urged his colleagues to back off their crusade. He encouraged them, instead, to barter for concessions on a longer-term deficit reduction plan.

Democrats and President Barack Obama said all along the landmark legislation was off limits, but it appears the GOP is just now getting that picture. Polls out Wednesday showed the Republican brand has been badly bruised from the shutdown, and that a majority of Americans were blaming them for the collapse of government services from food programs for the poor to delays in death benefits for fallen soldiers.

Obamacare, however, still faces its own problems.

Reports indicate the initial rollout of the health care market place on Oct. 1 was messy with various states experiencing glitches on the health care exchange websites. But even as Obamacare faced dwindling popularity, most Americans never supported the GOP tactic to stop it at any cost.

While many Republican senators like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John McCain of Arizona and Orrin Hatch of Utah agree it is time for the Republican Party to refocus its message, not everyone is giving up. Thursday Cruz remained optimistic about the Republican Party's opportunity to stop Obamacare.

During a radio spot, Cruz argued that a short-term debt ceiling increase gives Republicans more leverage to reform Obamacare.

"Let's push the debt ceiling a little further down the road so that it doesn't distract from the fight we're right in the middle of now," Cruz said.

GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak agrees that this short-term debt limit increase actually perpetuates the fight against Obamacare.

[MORE: Some Republicans Don't Believe in the Debt Ceiling]

"This is really an effort to get back to Obamacare, not an effort to stuff it back into the closet," he says.

Mackowiak envisions a one-year delay to the individual mandate, the law that requires Americans to purchase health care insurance or a repeal of the medical device tax are still conceivable outcomes for the GOP.

"The implementation of Obamacare is a disaster," Mackowiak says. "The Republicans still want a concession on it."

But Jenny Beth Martin, the co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, said conservative Republicans won't settle for just a repeal of the medical device tax.