Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.) is no fan of Obamacare.
But the federal shutdown may be worse.
“There is a group on the Republican side that feels shutting down the government is a good idea. It repels me to do that,” the Congressman said on Tuesday, after a budget impasse forced the first shutdown of the federal government since 1996.
He recalled the public outcry from that episode, and said Congress can ill afford a sequel. “The American public deserves better,” he said.
The Congressman, whose district includes Morristown, said it’s time for compromise by all sides. He said he is among about 30 Republicans tapped by House Speaker John Boehner for a committee that stands ready to conference with Senate Democrats to restart the government.
“I think everything is on the table,” said Rep. Frelinghuysen. The scion of one of New Jersey’s wealthiest and most prominent political families said he has asked Congress to suspend his pay during the shutdown.
The political showdown has centered on the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. It’s meant to provide health insurance for 30 million uninsured Americans, guarantee coverage for people previously denied for pre-existing conditions, and reduce costs for millions of others who struggle to afford health care.
Obamacare began enrolling uninsured citizens on Tuesday, as 800,000 federal employees were being furloughed without pay because of the budget standoff.
Republicans have argued Obamacare is overly complex and will drive up health care costs. Rep. Frelinghuysen has voted with fellow House Republicans to defund and delay the program, as part of a routine appropriations bill to fund government operations.
Senate Democrats have rejected that linkage. President Obama accused Republicans of holding “the entire economy hostage over ideological demands.”
Rep. Frelinghuysen said he doubts Obamacare will be repealed.
“But there ought to be a pause before there is any more of an implementation,” he said, claiming the 3,000-page act is full of loopholes. “This law is not ready for prime time. I think it’s important to get it right.”
He blamed the situation on a “lack of checks and balances,” accusing the Democratic majority of trying to “take over one-sixth of the economy.
“The President needs to do less campaign posturing and start doing more talking to the House and Senate himself,” the Congressman said from Washington. “There’s a lot of posturing down here. The country is not well served by this shutdown.”
Speaking in the Rose Garden on Tuesday, President Obama asserted the shutdown is “about rolling back our efforts to provide health insurance to folks who don’t have it. It’s all about rolling back the Affordable Care Act.
“This, more than anything else, seems to be what the Republican Party stands for these days. I know it’s strange that one party would make keeping people uninsured the centerpiece of their agenda, but that apparently is what it is.
“And of course what’s stranger still is that shutting down our government doesn’t accomplish their stated goal. The Affordable Care Act is a law that passed the House, that passed the Senate, the Supreme Court ruled constitutional. It was a central issue in last year’s election. It is settled, and it is here to stay,” the President said.
Asked if the GOP has allowed the Tea Party to push it too far, Rep. Frelinghuysen, a 10-term incumbent generally regarded as a moderate, gave a measured response.
“New members come to Congress with strong beliefs, said the Vietnam veteran.
“It’s difficult to explain to new members that there is no benefit to shutting down the government. It hurts the government, it hurts the institution. The American public deserves better. We need to get back on an even keel.”