Tea Party’s Ross Says Debt Worth Yielding on Obamacare

U.S. Representative Dennis Ross, a Florida Republican, said he would support a broad spending deal that didn’t include changes to the health-care law, becoming the first Tea Party-backed House lawmaker to publicly back off the fight that has shut down the government for five days.

Ross, ranked among the House’s most conservative members by both the Club for Growth and the American Conservative Union, said he shifted his position because the shutdown hasn’t resulted in changes to the Affordable Care Act, which started Oct. 1, the same day government funding ran out. The shutdown also could hurt the party, he said.

“We’ve lost the CR battle,” Ross, referring to the continuing resolution to authorize government spending, said in an interview. “We need to move on and take whatever we can find in the debt limit.”

Other lawmakers backed by the limited-government Tea Party movement, including Republican Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, are refusing to budge. Republican House Speaker John Boehner said yesterday the way to end the government shutdown would be for Democrats to negotiate and accept changes that would produce “fairness” under President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law, also known as Obamacare.

Representative Raul Labrador, an Idaho Republican and leading voice in the fight against Obamacare, said a change to the law “has to be on the table.”

One-Year Delay

“A one-year delay is still reasonable to ask for,” Labrador said in an interview.

The view from Ross, 53, echoes that of a growing chorus of House Republicans pushing to craft a broader agreement that doesn’t include Obamacare as the cornerstone. That fight has caused a prolonged stalemate and is now bleeding into a debate over the nation’s $16.7 trillion debt limit, which must be raised before Oct. 17 to avoid a U.S. default.

“You’re starting to see a shift in the thinking among members of the conference from all factions,” said Representative Charles Boustany, a Louisiana Republican. Boustany said he would also back a deal that didn’t delay the health-care law’s individual mandate -- a requirement that Americans who lack insurance purchase it through government-run exchanges -- if it also repealed a tax on medical devices, led to entitlement cuts and created a process for tax reform.

Ross took a hard-line stance just last month, saying that Republicans who took office in 2010 “were elected to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

“We’ve got to offer an alternative for the sake of our credibility,” he said then.

Means Testing

Now, Ross is pushing for other changes, such as means-testing for Medicare payments and switching to a formula that may make Social Security beneficiaries’ cost-of-living increases rise more slowly. Those would be “major reforms” that should win Republican votes.

“I’m not questioning my leadership. I’m just suggesting that we need to take stock of where we’ve come and realize what it’s going to take for where we want to go,” Ross said, adding that he still favors changing the health-care law.

Ross said Republicans can claim victory for recent spending cuts, which he said are the first consecutive-year reductions in more than 50 years.

“We’ve got to be realistic about that and not go so far as that we do things that shut down the government to a great degree or default on our debt,” Ross said. “There’s room to make sure we continue on our course and not have catastrophic events.”

A spending deal would clear the way for compromises on other issues, such as immigration and revising the tax code, he said.

“There are a whole lot of other issues that haunted us at the election other than Obamacare,” Ross said. “I would hope there’s at least enough of us to constitute a majority of reasonable people that realize we need to give and take.”

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