The country could be on the brink of another government shutdown in three months without major negotiations on the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Rep. Andy Barr said Monday.
Barr is one of three Kentucky Republicans in Congress who voted against an agreement to fund the federal government through Jan. 15 and suspend the U.S. debt ceiling until Feb. 7, a deal that ended the 16-day partial government shutdown.
Republicans in the U.S. House failed in their attempt to repeal or delay the health-care law during talks to fund the government. That battle will likely continue into the next round of spending negotiations in January and may trigger another federal shutdown “unless the president will sit down and talk,” said Barr, R-Lexington.
“I recognize that Obamacare is a priority for him (President Barack Obama), I recognize that,” he said Monday at the opening of the new Emergency Operations Center at Boone National Guard Center. “But he needs to recognize that it’s a problem for my constituents.”
Barr, who joined U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, and U.S. Rep. Thomas Massey, R-Vanceburg, in voting against the spending measure, said he remains hopeful to avoid a second government shutdown in a few months.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, said though he supports repealing the Affordable Care Act, shutting down the government will not be repeated in the coming budget and debt ceiling negotiations.
Lawmakers have set a Dec. 13 deadline to develop a long-term budget outline, and Barr said he would like to see a spending agreement, “not just kick the can down the road, not just raise the debt limit, but actually start reducing spending and forcing the government to live within its means.”
The Affordable Care Act should be part of those discussions because the law is projected to cost nearly $1.8 trillion over the next decade, he said.
“To say that we can just ignore a $2 trillion spending bill as we look at how we’re going to manage our finances over the next 10 years, that just doesn’t make sense,” he said.
House Republicans have taken much of the blame for the partial shutdown, which took $24 billion out of the U.S. economy, according to financial analyst Standard & Poor’s.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Tuesday shows discontent with Congress’ handling of budget negotiations, as 77 percent of respondents disapproved of the way congressional Republicans handled spending talks compared to 61 percent who disfavored Democrats’ strategy. Obama fared better than both with 54 percent who disapproved of his role in negotiations.
Barr said the perception that House Republicans are to blame for the government shutdown is unfair. He noted the House voted on 26 pieces of legislation to fund critical parts of the government and end the shutdown — without the Affordable Care Act.
“The difficulty was we couldn’t get the Senate or the president to even have a conversation, and the American people deserve better than that,” he said.
When asked whether he expected his vote on the short-term spending agreement would resurface during his first run for re-election this fall, Barr said he anticipates a number of his votes will be political fodder.
So far, Democrats Elisabeth Jensen, Joe Palumbo and Michael Coblenz have announced bids to challenge Barr next year.
“I’m focused on doing what the people told me to do, and I’m focused on doing what I think is right and in the best, long-term interest of the country,” Barr said. “That’s my focus, not what politicians will say about my vote.”