RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now that the federal government is back to work, both Democrats and Republicans are taking stock of the fiscal showdown. Congressional elections are still a year away, but some, particularly Republicans, fear this painful episode could come back to haunt them. Many are pointing fingers at the Tea Party, whose strategy was to defund or at least substantially weaken the Affordable Care Act, which in the end did not happen. Despite pressure to end the government shutdown, Republican Phil Roe voted against the measure that ultimately re-opened the government. Dr. Roe is a physician and a member of the Tea Party Caucus, and he joins us from his home state of Tennessee to talk about his vote. Welcome to the program, congressman.
REPRESENTATIVE PHIL ROE: Rachel, thanks very much.
MARTIN: Last month, congressman, you said forcing a shutdown over the new health care law wasn't the right approach, it wasn't the right strategy. But you ended up voting against the agreement that ended the impasse. You seem to have changed your mind. Why?
ROE: Well, I didn't really change my mind. I think one of the most looming problems we have in our nation is our debt. And this vote that we had - we know that the Affordable Care Act is going to add to the deficit. Now, look, I totally - I've said this now for five years I've been in the U.S. Congress - we needed health care reform in this nation. And I agree with the premise of the Affordable Care Act of expanding coverage and lowering costs. The problem is it's not delivering on that promise. It's going to add to this overall debt.
MARTIN: The shutdown cost the country billions of dollars. Do you think it was worth going through that 16 days where people weren't able to go to their jobs; 16 days where the government was partially shut down?
ROE: Well, only a few people didn't go to their jobs - not most people went to their jobs. There's no doubt that a shutdown is not good for the country. I'm the first to say that, I was first to say, look, you didn't elect me in Tennessee to shut the government down. You elected me to run the government. But you have to have a willing partner in that. And like I said, we have a process to do that. And it's not being followed right now.
MARTIN: What is the recent events in the Congress, the shutdown, what does it say about the state of the GOP right now? Do you sense a real division between the so-called establishment and the Tea Party or is that being overstated?
ROE: I think it is. I mean, look, it's healthy to have these debates within your party, and within the country. Look, the country is a diverse country - a lot of opinions here. You elect people that represent the majority of opinions in their district, and they have a right to come express those. Both the Democrats and Republicans do. So, I know that Speaker Boehner, when we met the last time in our conference at 3 o'clock got a standing ovation from our conference. And I think he did a fine job and did all he could do in this negotiation. And, look, this is one debate, one part of one debate. This debate will continue.
MARTIN: We're in a temporary fix right now. The short-term continuing resolution, which reopened the government, is set to expire this coming January. Some members of the Tea Party caucus have suggested that they will try this strategy again, potentially force another shutdown. If you say it's no way to run a country, why did you vote against the measure that would have ended the shutdown?
ROE: Remember, my long-term concern in this country is the debt that we're accumulating. We're going to pay the piper some time down the road. And let me just let our listeners hear this. In less than 20 years - and this is not me, these are the actuaries for Social Security - if we don't do something to shore that program up, you're going to have to cut the benefits by 25 percent. That's why you need to make these changes now. And kicking the can down the road is not the way to do it.
MARTIN: Representative Roe is a member of the Tea Party caucus. He joined us from his district in Tennessee. Congressman Roe, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us.
ROE: Rachel, thanks very much for having me on. And I hope everyone enjoys this beautiful fall. It's beginning to turn really, really pretty down here.
MARTIN: Thanks for your time, sir.
ROE: Thank you.
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