By Wade Coggeshall
— Todd Rokita of Indiana’s Fourth Congressional District has been an outspoken opponent of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — a k a Obamacare — since it was signed into law in 2010.
On Tuesday, the first day the federal government partially shut down in 17 years, the Republican congressman wasn’t backing down.
In a conference call, Rokita said calls to his Washington, D.C. office and district offices were in favor of the government shutdown by about 60-40. In August, he met with more than 2,500 Hoosiers at town hall meetings, most of whom implored him to stand against the health-care legislation and overall federal government largess.
“It’s hurting our children and grandchildren, especially the ones that don’t yet exist,” Rokita said. “A child born today has $50-$60,000 worth of this country’s debt assigned to him. It’s simply unsustainable.”
Rokita did vow to continue attempting to negotiate with President Barack Obama and the Democrat-controlled senate. However, he said a meeting Tuesday morning was only attended by about half of those expected.
“When you have serious disagreements, the way out of them is to talk, to negotiate,” Rokita said. “I don’t understand why, if this is that serious, sitting together in a conference is unimaginable by the president. Any leader of any type would see the value in that. This president doesn’t.”
Rokita added the government shutdown has affected his office too. For now he’s rotating staffers on a daily basis, sending them home without pay. As for his own salary, he’s not following some other congressmen who are voluntarily giving up theirs until this is resolved because he thinks that sends the wrong message.
“I’m doing my job,” Rokita said. “I’m doing exactly what Hoosiers want me to do, and that is fighting out-of-control growth and spending of the federal government — exemplified most recently by Obamacare.”
Rokita noted 19 parts of Obamacare have been delayed in the last eight months alone. He’s incensed that the employer mandate has been delayed, but not the individual one. Rokita also believes lawmakers should have to use the health care too, and not have special privileges.
“It’s not ready for prime time,” he said of Obamacare. “It’s not just a matter of defunding. It’s a matter of stopping one of the most insidious laws ever devised by man.”
In a larger context, Rokita thinks the federal government is so elephantine that it’s regulating the private sector out of existence.
“Without a strong private sector you have no nonprofit sector and no government sector,” he said. “Even now it’s affecting the standard of living. All this is worth fighting for at this particular time.”
Currently more than 800,000 federal employees are furloughed. Those affected in Indiana include hundreds of workers at Grissom Air Reserve Base and national parks like the Hoosier National Forest and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Programs like the Postal Service and benefits like Medicaid and unemployment are not yet affected.