Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Friday that he believes the 2014 midterm election will be a referendum on the problems with the rollout of President Obama's signature health-care law, which he likened to a very severe storm.
"Now that it has become a category 5 political hurricane, it is not just causing havoc in certain regions of the country," Walden said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in Washington. "It is ripping apart every region of the country."
The law, known as "Obamacare," Walden argued, has hurt small businesses and consumers. And, he said, the technical problems that have plagued the rollout of HealthCare.gov are evidence that government isn't equipped to undertake such a broad task.
"The American people feel very misled," he said, "and a bond of trust has been broken."
Last month's showdown on the government shutdown badly damaged the GOP brand and gave Democrats a temporary boost in the battle for the House, polls showed. But that momentum has largely disappeared in recent weeks amid the problems that have plagued the implementation of the health-care law.
Walden said the Obamacare issues amount to a more lasting political problem than the government shutdown. Still, he said, there is no benefit in shuttering the government in the next round of fiscal negotiations, which will come to a head early next year.
"We should keep the government open and operated," Walden said.
Democrats are expected to need to pick up 17 seats to win back the House majority, in the president's second midterm, no less, an election that has historically been unkind to the party controlling the White House. Walden offered a confident appraisal of the 2014 map, saying he believes Republicans could even gain seats in the House. But he declined to say how many pickups would be a realistic goal.
"They've got to go win on red territory," Walden said of his Democratic counterparts.
Walden said he expects the House to take up immigration legislation reform on a "piece by piece" basis before the 2014 election. The Senate has already passed a sweeping bipartisan plan, but House GOP leaders prefer a piecemeal approach.