Sen. Wicker: Obamacare Should Go But Shutdown Won't Kill It
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
For more on the Republican strategy, we're joined by Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi. He joins us now from his office on Capitol Hill. Welcome to the program, Senator.
SENATOR ROGER WICKER: Glad to be with you, Robert.
SIEGEL: You've described yourself as a staunch opponent of Obamacare, and you've said you'd continue to fight for its full repeal. Is repealing the health care law worth a government shutdown next week?
WICKER: Well, I don't think a government shutdown would get us there. I don't think, either from a policy standpoint or politically, it's wise to move in a direction that's going to give us a government shutdown.
SIEGEL: Well, as for the approach of Senator Cruz, which has - from last night until midday today - dominated news coverage of the Senate, has it been at all helpful, instructive? Has it simply been an embarrassment to the Republican Party?
WICKER: Well, to the extent that it has highlighted the number of policy flaws, I think, it's been helpful. To the extent that it has persuaded some people that somehow moving to consideration of this bill or moving to consideration of amendments is somehow vote for Obamacare, I think that's possibly confused the issue.
SIEGEL: Mississippi has - I believe it's the sixth highest rate of Medicaid enrollment of any state, and I think it's the ninth highest rate of uninsured throughout the country. According to Department of Health and Human Services and the data they put out today, a health insurance policy for a family of four with income of $50,000 after the tax credit - the lowest bronze policy, they call it - could be had for a net payment of $28 a month. Are you concerned, as the Democrats say, that things like that are going to become too popular for Republicans to defund them in coming years?
WICKER: Well, I think anytime you get somebody used to a government program, there is a tendency to - for that program not to go away. My understanding is that...
SIEGEL: Yeah. You were saying yes. You're saying it could become popular.
WICKER: Well, let me answer it further. I think in the next two years, really, less than 10 percent of the American people will be on this type of subsidy. So I think there are going to be so many drawbacks that I don't see Obamacare getting exceedingly popular.
SIEGEL: Can you imagine a - some kind of arrangement, some kind of deal where it's stipulated that we understand that when the Republicans, if and when they become a majority party, they will roll this back? Meanwhile, you have other things to get on to. So you'd better deal with them rather than have constant arguments over this one law.
WICKER: Well, it's hard to stipulate something that involves a program that's that controversial. I think we can avoid a government shutdown and still make the case that this is a very flawed piece of legislation. As you know, Robert, there were many things back in 2009 that were going to be cleaned up in conference. Then Scott Brown won the Massachusetts election, and there was no opportunity for someone to go in and actually try to make Obamacare at least work the way the liberals wanted it to work. So we are stuck with something that was never intended to be the permanent law.
SIEGEL: We've been talking about government shutdown and continuing resolution and stripping out Obamacare. The next act is going to be the debt ceiling. Same logic apply? Or is it - or do we go through the same thing at (unintelligible)
WICKER: Well, I know there are some people, particularly in the Republican Conference and the House of Representatives, who view the debt ceiling as a better vehicle for some leverage and...
SIEGEL: That's - well, that's their argument. What do you say? Do you agree with them that we could go through all this in a couple of months or in a couple of weeks when it comes time to raise the debt ceiling?
WICKER: I think there are opportunities, yes, to make sensible policy changes in return for a one-year or perhaps longer extension of the debt ceiling. I think it can be done without budget and debt ceiling brinkmanship. It's a pivot point and it gives those of us in the Republican minority in the Senate an opportunity to make the laws work a little bit better.
SIEGEL: So health care, the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare should be on the table when it comes time to raise the debt ceiling.
WICKER: I think there are ways that we can make that law better short of a shutdown, yes.
SIEGEL: Senator Wicker, thank you very much for talking with us.
WICKER: Glad to be with you.
SIEGEL: Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.