The White House is shooting down House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) insistence that the Affordable Care Act must be on the chopping block in debt reduction talks.
A White House official told TPM on Wednesday afternoon that Obamacare will be off the table as leaders of the two parties negotiate a deal to avoid steep tax hikes and automatic spending cuts set to take effect in January.
The official was responding to Boehner’s Tuesday evening op-ed in the Cincinnati Enquirer re-affirming his commitment to repeal the law.
“The president’s health care law adds a massive, expensive, unworkable government program at a time when our national debt already exceeds the size of our country’s entire economy,” the Speaker wrote. “We can’t afford it, and we can’t afford to leave it intact. That’s why I’ve been clear that the law has to stay on the table as both parties discuss ways to solve our nation’s massive debt challenge.”
In an email to TPM, a Senate Democratic leadership aide called the idea “a total nonstarter. Boehner’s office knows that, so even bringing it up is counterproductive.”
President Obama and Democrats have previously agreed to relatively minor cuts to the law, such as a reduction in the size of the prevention and public health fund as part of the deal to extend the payroll tax cut through the end of this year.
Republicans are hopeful that a “fiscal cliff” agreement might include additional cuts to Obamacare, which a Senate Democratic aide told the Huffington Post is not necessarily out of the question as long as it does not change the shape of the law “in any meaningful way.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.