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Rep. Labrador Of Idaho Weighs In On Government Shutdown


Throughout the federal government shutdown, we've been touching base with members of Congress involved in what so far is a standoff. One Tea Party Republican at the heart of the group in the House that's driving demands for changes in Obamacare is Raul Labrador of Idaho. When we reached him in his office on Capitol Hill, he said he was not impressed with polls showing unhappiness with congressional Republicans is going up as the shutdown goes on, though he said he would make a concession in exchange for getting what he cares most about - a delay in the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate. He's willing to give his vote to a longer-term funding of the government, something known as a CR.

REPRESENTATIVE RAUL LABRADOR: I personally would be willing to give the president a one-year CR and I have a lot of conservatives there with me, which would be good for the president, in exchange for a one-year delay in the implementation of Obamacare. And I think that would be something where both sides actually would be able to get something out of these negotiations.

MONTAGNE: Democrats say the push to delay the Affordable Care Act for a year is simply a way to buy more time for Republicans to try to kill the program. Now, Republicans have passed dozens of bills in the House which, of course, have never become law because they won't fly in the Senate, tilting at this program. So it's clear that's what Republicans want to do.

LABRADOR: And I agree. It is clear. That's what I want to do. If it were up to me, I would completely repeal the act. I think we need to get rid of Obamacare. I think the Affordable Care Act is not - doesn't make health care more affordable. We're hearing more and more people that are losing their health insurance right now, and they're being told - unlike what the president promised the American people, if you like your current health insurance that you could keep it - they're actually losing their health insurance. And they're being told that they're going to have to pay more for their health insurance. So that's...

MONTAGNE: Is it accurate then that when you call for a one-year delay, it's actually not what you want, it's that you want to kill...

LABRADOR: No, it's a compromise position.

MONTAGNE: ...the Affordable Care Act

LABRADOR: Yes. I, as a Republican...

MONTAGNE: Would you be happy with it in a year?

LABRADOR: I won't be happy with it in a year. My position would be: Yes, let's get rid of the entire program. But I know we don't have the votes to do that. I don't think it's unreasonable for us to ask for a one-year delay of a program that's clearly not working.

MONTAGNE: Well, let me ask you something else in terms of what your colleagues are saying. Some who identify with the Tea Party, they have said that they could or would do a deal that takes on tax reform and entitlement reform, without demanding a delay in the implementation of the mandate to buy health insurance under Obamacare. The attitude is they'll live to fight another day on that.

What do you say to that idea?

LABRADOR: You know, there's a lot of different ideas that are floating around. And I'm not going to reject any of them. But in order for any of those ideas to come to fruition, what we need is to actually sit at the table with Harry Reid and Barack Obama. If we are not at the table with them and they are unwilling to negotiate with us, it's absolutely impossible for us to discuss or debate any of these ideas. It might be that in the end, we can have something that both sides can agree to.

MONTAGNE: But let me ask you this. If in fact, say, the president and Harry Reid agree to sit down and negotiate and they look at you and say, What are you offering, are you saying that the only thing you have to offer is we won't refuse to fund the government - that is, keep the government shut down? I mean is that an offer? That would seem like a negative offer.

LABRADOR: We're not the ones who wanted to shut down the government. You need to remember that. We wanted to keep the government open. This entire battle is about Harry Reid making sure that he keeps the Senate and that he wins the House of Representatives. That's why he wants the shutdown. And I fear that that's why they want actually to breach the debt ceiling at some point, because they believe that we're going to get blamed for it.

MONTAGNE: The last time that you and I spoke, it was about the prospects for immigration reform. You were very involved in discussions over an immigration plan. You also warned, back in the spring, that the debate over Obamacare could end up killing immigration reform. Do you think that once we're through with this current debate, the immigration discussion will continue?

LABRADOR: I think it's going to continue in the House. I think we still have a lot of House members that are working on immigration reform. But I think unfortunately, when you have Democrats calling us anarchists, arsonists, it makes it very difficult to work with them. But you will continue to see the House of Representatives working on bills that will reform the immigration system for, for the future.

MONTAGNE: But do you think this is a big setback for immigration reform?

LABRADOR: It's not helpful.

MONTAGNE: Congressman Raul Labrador, Republican from Idaho, thank you for joining us.

LABRADOR: Thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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