Congress still has time to accomplish major legislative goals this year and one embattled incumbent believes success in Washington will lead to success back home in November.
Rep. Dave Brat, R-Virginia, stunned the political world by toppling then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the 2014 Republican primary. This year Brat finds himself in a toss-up race against Democratic challenger Abigail Spanberger.
The race leaves voters in the Old Dominion’s seventh congressional district with a stark contrast between the free market-oriented Brat and a staunch liberal challenger in Spanberger, who favors sanctuary cities and government-run health care.
Brat says the venom of the far left is up close and personal in his campaign.
“The last town hall I had, this hard left fringe is swearing at the pastor while he’s giving the opening prayer. It’s all on tape. Abigail Spanberger was in the front row and didn’t do anything about it,” said Brat.
But before November 6 arrives, Brat and his congressional colleagues hope to pass major legislation that proves to voters that they can still be entrusted with the majority. Brat says getting the spending bills done is at the top of the list, but he also wants to see action on health care, immigration, opioid addiction treatment funding and more.
In holding town halls, Brat says the one thing that transcends party is that frustration everyone has with the health care system.
“I had Democrats, independents, and Republicans. They would sit down with horror stories. ‘I’ve got one insurance company. I’ve got one prescription drug. I have no alternatives. I can’t choose another company. I can’t choose another prescription. I have to pay whatever price they have. My doctor’s not involved in it in any way shape or form,'” reported Brat.
He’s hearing the same stress from small business owners, who either can’t afford to hire skilled workers or offer health benefits at all.
Brat points out that the Senate has not done a budget resolution yet for this year so leaders could still pursue budget reconciliation, which would allow a health care bill to pass with a simple majority in the Senate.
Brat thinks turning around major repeal legislation in two months is a tall order but that it would also send a powerful message to voters that Republicans will do what they promise to do.
“That would be a home run if we could accomplish that. The election would be over,” said Brat.
While not diving too much into what would have to be included in a GOP plan to win his support, Brat says Spanberger and the Democrats want government to have complete control over health care, even though “Medicare for all” carries a 10-year price tag of $32 trillion.
Brat says the Richmond Times-Dispatch ran the numbers and discovered that both personal and corporate income taxes would have to be doubled to pay for that.
“That would not put you into a recession. That would put you into a depression,” he said.
The alternative of course is bigger deficits, which Brat condemns, but Democrats can now say that Republican leadership is producing trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see. Brat says that’s true but not because of the tax cuts passed last year.
He says three percent growth is enough to offset the tax cuts and anything greater, like the 4.2 percent growth posted in the second quarter of this year, will lead to a net positive. Brat says the real culprit is the $400 billion in new spending agreed to back in February in both chambers of Congress.
Brat is also hoping to see progress on immigration policy through the budgetary process. He wants to see funding for President Trump’s border wall and also hopes to see Congress approve mandatory E-Verify programs, by which all employers must confirm that their employees are in the country legally.
“That would be a huge component. E-Verify goes a long way to making sure we have a legal workforce,” said Brat, who says rooting out illegal hires would lead to higher wages for citizens and legal residents and help the country see what areas of the economy need help through legal immigration.
He says immigration enforcement is another clear difference in his campaign, pointing out that prominent Democrats who endorse Spanberger, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, want to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
“I want to defend ICE. I want to help them keep our country safe. The left wants to prosecute the ICE agents who work every day, put their life on the line to keep us safe,” said Brat.