Speaker of the House John Boehner, who took power when the Affordable Care Act's unpopularity swept dozens of House Democrats from office, has overseen more than 50 votes to undermine or repeal the law since.
But in recent days, he has softened his rhetoric, and though he stopped short of saying the law should be left in place, he said Republicans would have to come up with an alternative and a transition plan if they wanted it gone.
"(To) repeal Obamacare … isn't the answer. The answer is repeal and replace," Boehner told the Middletown, Ohio Rotary Club in his home district Thursday. "The challenge is that Obamacare is the law of the land. It is there and it has driven all types of changes in our health care delivery system. You can't recreate an insurance market over night."
"So the biggest challenge we are going to have is -- I do think at some point we'll get there -- is the transition of Obamacare back to a system that empowers patients and doctors to make choices that are good for their own health as opposed to doing what the government is dictating they should do."
The White House has said 8 million people signed up for health insurance under the act's exchanges, a million more than were estimated before botched rollouts of the federal and state websites threatened the law's viability.