WASHINGTON -- In an interview with ABC News on Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said that the president's Affordable Care Act was now the "law of the land."
The comments were immediately trumpeted as a turning point in the year-long debate surrounding the president's signature law, which has long been the target of repeal among House Republicans. But in a clarifying statement to The Huffington Post shortly after the first excerpts of the interview aired, Boehner's office made it clear that he still favored changing the legislation, if not eliminating it entirely.
“While Obamacare is the law of the land, it is costing us jobs and threatening our health care," said Boehner's spokesman Kevin Smith. "Speaker Boehner and House Republicans remain committed to repealing the law, and he said in the interview it would be on the table.”
The full transcript of the ABC interview, as provided by Smith, makes it clear that Boehner never really embraced the Affordable Care Act as a fait accompli following the 2012 elections.
DIANE SAWYER: A couple of other questions about the agenda now. You have said next year that you would repeal the health care vote. That's still your mission?
JOHN BOEHNER: Well, I think the election changes that. It's pretty clear that the president was reelected, Obamacare -- is the law of the land. I think there are parts -- of -- the healthcare law that -- are going to be very difficult to implement. And very expensive. And as -- the time when we're trying to find a way to create a path -- toward a balanced budget -- everything has to be on the table.
DIANE SAWYER: But you won't be spending the time next year trying to repeal Obamacare?
JOHN BOEHNER: There certainly may be parts of it that we believe -- need to be changed. We may do that. No decisions at this point.
The first ABC News excerpt only had Boehner saying that there were some parts of the Affordable Care Act that could be targeted in the context of debt-reduction negotiations.
Still, the rhetoric seems softened a bit. House Republicans, after all, have attempted to take down Obama’s health care law 33 times. Their last vote to repeal Obamacare came just two weeks after the Supreme Court’s historic ruling to uphold the law in June and, according to a report, put the GOP repeal efforts at a total cost of $50 million.
Eddie Vale, a spokesperson for the pro-health care reform group Protect Your Care, called Boehner's initially-reported remarks "welcome news" but stressed that Republicans should stop trying to repeal any of the law's elements.
"It’s welcome news that Boehner has finally gotten the message and will stop having the House waste time trying to repeal Obamacare,” Vale told The Huffington Post. “But, if they want to fully accept reality, they also need to stop trying to repeal or defund any of its elements, including in the fiscal cliff negotiations."
On his Twitter account on Friday, Boehner reiterated that he does not support the legislation. "Our goal remains #fullrepeal," he wrote.