By Russell Berman - 10/23/13 03:17 PM EDT
House Republicans returned to the Capitol this week after a 16-day government shutdown and immediately set their sights on a familiar topic: bashing the healthcare law.
“The rollout of ObamaCare is nothing short of a debacle,” Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told reporters Wednesday after a House GOP meeting.
“This ObamaCare exchange has been a complete and total failure, and it’s unacceptable,” said Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), vice chairwoman of the House Republican Conference.
The party met in private for the first time since the budget fight over the shutdown and the debt ceiling, a defeat that sent Republican poll numbers to historic lows.
“We went through a very tough period,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said. “As I told my colleagues the other day, we fought the fight. We didn’t win. We live to fight another day.”
Boehner offered no hint about whether the party’s strategy would change heading into the next battles over government funding and the debt ceiling early next year. The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), has already vowed that the party would not pursue the same goal of linking demands to delay or defund the healthcare law the next time around.
“The fact is, we’re going to have issues about funding the government come Jan. 15. We’re going to have the debt ceiling we’re going to have to deal with again,” Boehner said. “The looming problems that are affecting our country are still there. We are spending more than what we bring in.”
Cantor said Republicans would continue to push to delay at least the penalty associated with the individual insurance mandate, especially in light of the difficulties that people are having in signing up for new insurance through the federal exchange. Boehner said the party would focus first and foremost on conducting oversight of the implementation of the law.
The Speaker was asked if he and his colleagues are worried that the fallout from the shutdown defeat would threaten their House majority in 2014.
“As long as we stay focused on the priorities of the American people, I think we’re going to be fine,” Boehner replied. “What are they concerned about? They’re concerned about their jobs. They’re concerned about their income. They’re concerned about their health insurance and how they’re going to be able to afford it and how they’re going to be able to navigate through this bizarre plan that they now have to deal with.”