Copyright ©2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

There seems to be a rift between Tea Party activists and other Republicans over health care. As Eric Whitney reports, some influential conservatives are now saying, like it or not, the health care law is here to stay.

ERIC WHITNEY, BYLINE: When the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, the U.S. Chamber Of Commerce, an influential business lobbying group in Washington, immediately got behind the lawsuit to fight it at the U.S. Supreme Court. Here's Chamber President Tom Donahue speaking out against the law in January of 2011.

TOM DONAHUE: It's time in my opinion to go back to the drawing board. And thus, we support legislation in the House to repeal it.

WHITNEY: But this year, the Chamber's Donahue is no longer calling for Obamacare's repeal.

DONAHUE: We're not going to get rid of that bill, and so we're going to have to devise ways to make it work.

WHITNEY: Business news writers called that a striking about-face and a Nixon-goes-to-China moment." But Avik Roy, opinion editor at Forbes, says not so fast.

AVIK ROY: He didn't say that he opposes repeal. He just didn't think repeal was realistic in the next several years.

WHITNEY: Roy, a health policy advisor to Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign, says business groups, like the chamber, have to be pragmatic and deal with the world as it is, not as they'd like it to be. That's why, he says, the chamber is now focusing on changing specific parts of the health care law they don't like, rather than repealing it.

Roy thinks Republicans missed their chance to repeal the law in 2012. They won't get another chance until after the 2016 elections, he says. And by then, it will only be a small chance.

ROY: It's very difficult once a law that transformative has been in effect for seven years to repeal it. I think there are more attractive ways to achieve the goals of conservatives than repeal and replace.

WHITNEY: That doesn't sound attractive or pragmatic to conservative talk show host Erick Erickson, who runs the Red State blog. In a recent podcast of his show, he says it sounds more like capitulation.

ERICK ERICKSON: The lobbying groups who have open access to Republican leaders are abandoning repeal. The wonks the GOP leaders listen to are abandoning repeal. They're laying the groundwork to bail on fighting Obamacare.

WHITNEY: But the Chamber of Commerce and Roy say they remain committed to fighting Obamacare. The chamber wants specific items thrown out, like requiring businesses to provide health care. Roy says conservatives can accomplish more by using Obamacare to push for transformation of all government-funded health care.

ROY: The ACA is really an important, but smaller, portion of the overall reform picture. And I think what's happened with a lot of the more populist conservatives is that there's not necessarily that appreciation for how much the government is already involved in the health care system through programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

WHITNEY: Conservative activist Erickson says the traditional GOP doesn't like its populist wing and that it needs to be taught a lesson in the 2014 primary elections.

ERIK ERICKSON: The single, biggest thing you can do to get the Republicans back on the right and straight path is to support Matt Bevin against Mitch McConnell in Kentucky.

WHITNEY: Erickson also urges financial contributions to conservative primary challengers in Georgia, Mississippi, Nebraska, and other states. That means some Republican candidates will face heat for not doing more to repeal Obamacare. At the same time, they're fighting Democrats who say they aren't doing enough to help implement the health care law. For NPR News, I'm Eric Whitney.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: Eric Whitney's story is part of a collaboration between NPR and Kaiser Health News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

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.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.