Rep. Renee Ellmers won her seat in 2010 as a vocal opponent of the Affordable Care Act, and four years later the law remains a focus of her campaign.
Ellmers said in an interview with The News & Observer editorial board Wednesday that if she had her wish, the law would be “repealed and replaced with patient-centered policies that give families more choices.”
The law has put a crimp in job creation because it creates uncertainty for businesses.
Ellmers, who is seeking a third term representing the Republican-leaning 2nd Congressional District, is in a heated race against Democratic challenger Clay Aiken, who became famous competing on “American Idol.”
But unlike Aiken, who in an interview this week with the editorial board talked extensively about Ellmers, she didn’t mention her opponent unless asked direct questions about him.
Instead, she talked about U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. She blamed Reid for legislative stagnation in Washington.
Four hundred bills passed out of the House, 98 percent with bipartisan support, Ellmers said, and few moved in the Senate.
“They go to the Senate, and they sit on Harry Reid’s desk,” she said. “We see the American people are very frustrated with Congress, because they see gridlock, but there again the responsibility has to be put on Harry Reid’s shoulders because he has been the one who has stood in the way of real reform that would move this country forward.”
Pinning the blame on Reid for the “do-nothing Congress” has been a House Republican talking point since at least this summer.
A Republican congresswoman from Kansas held a news conference in July to talk about the 352 bills the House had passed – 98 percent with bipartisan support – that were sitting on Reid’s desk.
PolitiFact, a fact-checking journalism website, rated the claims in the July press conference “half true” because Reid isn’t the only person controlling which bills reach the Senate floor for votes.
Putting all the blame for Washington gridlock on Reid is “laughable,” said Steven Greene, a political science professor at N.C. State University.
A number of the House bills were “Republican fantasy bills” that House members knew would never become law, he said. “They’re not making any kind of effort whatsoever to negotiate with the Senate or President Obama,” Greene said.
One of the major lingering issues is immigration. The Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill, but nothing came out of the House.
Ellmers, who had vocal opposition from some constituents on her position on illegal immigration, said the House was close to coming up with its own bill.
Ellmers stressed that the border with Mexico must be secured, but she also proposes offering immigrants “earned legal work status” if they admit they entered the country illegally and pay a fine.
“Border security has to be the first part of it, and laws already on the books have to be enforced,” she said.
Sections of the border that are difficult to patrol can be monitored with advanced technology, Ellmers said.
Most workers in the country illegally don’t want to be U.S. citizens, she said, but want to be free of fear of deportation and want to be able to travel to their home countries and be able to return to the United States.
People who earn legal work status and want to become citizens would have to go “to the end of the line” and in applying for naturalization, she said.