By Tim Vandenack
As the Affordable Care Act comes under even closer scrutiny, Indiana's two U.S. senators are expressing mixed opinions on the health care overhaul.
U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat, spoke in defense of the measure Wednesday, Sept. 25, while Sen. Dan Coats, a Republican, offered up sharp words earlier this week. The differing views come as U.S. lawmakers try to come up with a compromise to keep the federal government funded after Sept. 30, when existing spending authority expires, and avoid a shutdown of the government bureaucracy.
Some on the right want to de-fund the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, others on the left want to leave it untouched, "and I've said, "Look, if there are some parts that aren't working perfectly, let's try to fix them,'" Donnelly said. He pointed to moves to remove a controversial medical device tax from the ACA and, on the positive side, to those who have already received improved coverage thanks to the ACA, like people who previously couldn't get health insurance due to pre-existing conditions.
Coats offered up his thoughts on the ACA in a relatively short statement Tuesday, amid debate over the sort of plan the Senate should consider in addressing the coming Sept. 30 deadline.
"I take a backseat to no one in my commitment to overturn this disastrous law, and I have voted more than two dozen times to repeal, de-fund and strip away its provisions," Coats said. "This is a principle I share with all Republicans."
The two senators' views hardly represent a shift from earlier statements, but they put in relief the sort of debate taking place nationwide, as GOPers redouble their efforts to halt full implementation of the ACA, also known as Obamacare. Some Republicans have pushed to de-fund the measure as part of any continuing resolution on spending while Democrats have rebuffed such moves.
In his remarks, made during a conference call with reporters, Donnelly, a centrist Democrat, lobbied for an increased focus by lawmakers on job creation and improving the economy. He made a broader call for lawmakers to work together.
"Instead of spending our time trying to de-fund the government, we need to try to make our country work and move forward," he said. As debate unfolds over a spending resolution "we can go one way, the responsible way, and show the American people and Hoosiers that we're capable of working with one another. Or we can continue to yell at each other as we've seen to score political points and refuse to be realistic."
Donnelly also offered critical words toward U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and the Texas Republican's 21-hour talk Tuesday and Wednesday on the Senate floor against Obamacare. The presentation was "distracting from our main task at hand," passing legislation to keep the government funded.
In the end, Donnelly suspects the Senate will pass a "clean" continuing spending resolution, one that does not de-fund Obamacare. If, in turn, such a Senate plan is put to the House, he thinks it will "pass handily."
Still, he didn't dismiss the possibility of continuing discord, lack of an agreement and a government shutdown come Oct. 1. "I am preparing for the worst, hoping for the best," Donnelly said.