Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) said on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday that the Republicans in the Senate should pivot away from trying to undermine the Affordable Care Act and instead focus on the debt, a position that is at odds with some of his more high profile colleagues.
“I would do anything, and I will continue to do anything, to stop the train wreck that is Obamacare,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said this week after his campaign to defund the president’s health care law failed. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) agreed, insisting that Republicans will have a chance to “get rid of this law and then look for opportunities in the future to replace it.” And despite the shutdown battle loss, conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and FreedomWorks are continuing to work to undermine the law.
Yet when asked by Meet the Press host David Gregory if the GOP should continue its war on Obamacare, Coburn demurred, saying the fight “took us off message”:
GREGORY: Let me ask you about Obamacare because that fight does not appear to be going away. Your colleague Ted Cruz said that he would do anything in the future to stop the train wreck that is Obamacare. Do you believe the fight against Obamacare is over?
COBURN: Well I think focusing on Obamacare takes you away from the larger picture, David. We have a $128 trillion worth of unfunded liabilities and the total net worth of our country is $94 trillion and we have another $17 trillion worth of debt. What we ought to be doing is, how do we secure the future? … Our problem with growth … is there’s no confidence in the country about the future and until you have leadership that brings our nation together, rather than advantages themselves by dividing us, we’re not going to solve these problems and we have to be truthful about what the real problem is. [...]
The fight on Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, took us off message. The large percentage of American public knows that Washington wastes money. They just don’t have a clue of how bad it really is and so we lost the message there of what really needs to happen in Washington.
Coburn’s position has some supporters within the party. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said recently that the GOP’s shutdown fiasco over defunding Obamacare has hurt the GOP (and polling shows that it has) and many came out against the shutdown strategy. Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) have also urged the party to turn its attention elsewhere.
At the same time, while Obamacare has become more popular, the administration announced on Saturday that nearly 500,000 applications have been filed for health insurance in the state and federal exchanges.