Updated 10:27 p.m. | Speaker John A. Boehner said Thursday that changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act make it impossible to repeal the health care law unless Congress has a replacement ready as well.
Speaking at a Rotary Club meeting in his Ohio district, the speaker also mocked members of his own conference for not wanting to address immigration, knocked the tea party — or, more specifically, organizations that raise money purporting to represent the tea party — and expounded upon the role of money in education, according to a news report from a newspaper near his district. On health care, Boehner said simply repealing the Affordable Care Act "isn't the answer" and it would take time to transition to a new system.
"When we were debating Obamacare in 2010, we offered an alternative that consisted of eight or nine points that would make our insurance system work a lot better. [To] repeal Obamacare … isn't the answer. The answer is repeal and replace. The challenge is that Obamacare is the law of the land. It is there and it has driven all types of changes in our health care delivery system. You can't recreate an insurance market overnight. "Secondly, you've got the big hospital organizations buying up doctor's groups because hospitals get reimbursed two or three times doctor's do for the same procedure just because it's a hospital. Those kinds of changes can't be redone. "So the biggest challenge we are going to have is — I do think at some point we'll get there — is the transition of Obamacare back to a system that empowers patients and doctors to make choices that are good for their own health as opposed to doing what the government is dictating they should do."Spokesman Brendan Buck downplayed Boehner's comments. "For four years now, the House Republican position has been repeal-and-replace," he said.
The GOP, however, has taken a number of votes to repeal the law, including bills that would have completely repealed the law without replacing it. The party hasn't unified behind a replacement, let alone voted on one, since Boehner took the speaker's gavel. Republicans however have been working to craft such a bill for months. Boehner's comments seem to reflect the new reality of the law. With 8 million people having signed up on the Affordable Care Act exchanges, and every state having adapted to the new regulations, repealing the law effective overnight would be messy in the extreme without at least a transition period.
On immigration, Boehner gave his impersonation of the Republican refusal to take on the issue.
"Here's the attitude. 'Ohhhh. Don't make me do this. Ohhhh. This is too hard,'" Boehner whined before a luncheon crowd at Brown's Run Country Club in Madison Township. "We get elected to make choices. We get elected to solve problems and it's remarkable to me how many of my colleagues just don't want to. ... They'll take the path of least resistance."
Boehner said he's been working for 16 months or 17 months trying to push Congress to deal with an immigration rewrite.
"I've had every brick and bat and arrow shot at me over this issue just because I wanted to deal with it. I didn't say it was going to be easy," he said.
Buck played down the mocking as a form of affection.
"As the speaker often says to his colleagues, you only tease the ones you love," he said in an email.
On the tea party, Boehner said he had issues with organizations who purport to represent the tea party.
"There's the tea party and then there are people who purport to represent the tea party. "I've gone to hundreds of tea party events over the last four years. The makeup is pretty much the same. You've got some disaffected Republicans, disaffected Democrats. You always have a handful of anarchists.They are against everything. Eighty percent of the people at these events, are the most ordinary Americans you've ever met. None of whom have ever been involved in politics. We in public service respect the fact that they brought energy to the political process. "I don't have any issue with the tea party. I have issues with organizations in Washington who raise money purporting to represent the tea party, those organizations who are against a budget deal the president and I cut that will save $2.4 trillion over 10 years. They probably don't know that total federal spending in each of the last two years has been reduced, the first time since 1950. "They probably don't realize that we protected 99 percent of the American people from an increase in their taxes. They were against that too, the same organizations. There are organizations in Washington that exist for the sheer purpose of raising money to line their own pockets. "I made it pretty clear I'll stand with the tea party but I'm not standing with these three or four groups in Washington who are using the tea party for their own personal benefit."Heritage Action for America CEO Mike Needham didn't take kindly to Boehner's remarks, releasing a statement late Thursday.
"It’s disappointing, but by now not surprising, that the Republican Speaker is attacking conservatives looking to retake the Senate. The Republican Party should be large enough for fact-based policy debates. Unfortunately, John Boehner is more interested in advancing the agenda of high-powered DC special interests than inspiring Americans with a policy vision that allows freedom, opportunity, prosperity and civil society to flourish."Boehner, who is a former chairman of the committee that is now called Education and the Workforce, also offered his opinions on education policy and the controversial No Child Left Behind, which he helped draft.
"All we said with no child left behind is that we ought have expectations for what kids learn and we ought to publish test results so that we know who is learning and who isn't. "I don't think the issue with education is money. If money were going to solve the education problem we would have solved it a long time ago. I think there is a structural problem. It's not about our kids. Kids are in school 9 percent of the time between birth and age 18. That means 91 percent of the time they are home or they are out in their community. We have books. We have educational TV. We may go and visit places that help reinforce their education. Or they are out in the neighborhood or they are playing team sports or they are part of the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. They are involved in things that reinforce their education. "But it you are poor and you go to a rotten school or live in a rotten neighborhood, you have no chance. You are probably not going to get the basics.Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.