The Virginia congressman who defeated his own party’s House Majority leader three years ago is hailing President Trump’s speech as a “total conservative tour de force” but says Republicans must resist the temptation to embrace Obamacare-lite and truly embrace repeal and reform.
Trump’s speech Tuesday night to a Joint Session of Congress highlighted a number of conservative priorities. It received acclaim for both style and substance. Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., was thoroughly impressed.
“He hit it out of the park. It was just a total conservative tour de force across all the issues and it was all upbeat. It just gave everybody hope,” said Brat. “When MSNBC can’t say anything negative, you know you had a good speech.”
Brat hailed Trump for pushing tax cuts as part of overall tax reform and for lifting the regulatory burden from families and businesses. While politicians and pundits alike suspect tax reform cannot happen this year, Brat says Trump has a way of motivating people that the so-called experts may not understand.
“This city has a way of delaying and letting the special interests take over. Trump is the one guy who can light a fire and make sure that does not happen,” said Brat.
One of Trump’s most forceful demands was for Congress to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. But how that can be done is becoming increasingly contentious inside the GOP.
Last week, a leaked memo of a Republican replacement plan set off fierce debate as the more conservative members of the House and Senate balked at replacing health care subsidies with refundable tax credits.
Brat also revealed that the debate over tax credits is playing out only in the wake of the leaked memo because GOP lawmakers haven’t assembled to work through a replacement bill.
“We’ve never even had a show of hands for , ‘Hey, which way do you want to go on this? That’s part of the problem with this town. Our conference needs to be more transparent and represent the will of the people,” said Brat.
“We all ran to represent the will of the people. We all ran for six years on repeal of Obamacare. So when you say repeal of Obamacare, I think the average person means repeal of Obamacare, right? If we end up putting Obamacare-lite in its place, our base is going to be furious. The average small businessperson is going to be furious,” said Brat.
Brat reminds citizens and lawmakers how we got into the current predicament with respect to Obamacare.
“The insurance guys walked into the White House eight years ago looking at their shoes. They were going to get 18 million new customers, but they knew they were setting up a non-free market death spiral system,” said Brat.
He says Republicans can’t leave the American people effectively headed down the very same road.
“Having taught economics for 20 years, you’ve got to get the system right. That’s what some of us are very worried about, that’s we’re going to do an Obamacare-lite. Then our team is going to own that product. That will be a disaster,” said Brat.
“We’ll just do the same thing and call it (something) different, but you keep the insurance regulations. You keep the implicit mandates. The tax credits will turn into a new entitlement. And then we’re also getting rid of the health care deductions in the piece that was leaked on Politico,” said Brat.
Pointing out that entitlement spending is set to engulf the entire federal budget within a decade, Brat says responsible lawmakers cannot create another entitlement through the tax credits.
“We do not want to provide another federally-run entitlement program. The others are all insolvent, right, Medicare, Social Security. Everything the feds touch is insolvent,” said Brat, who points out Trump will need to fend off the growth of mandatory spending, either through entitlement reform or pushing tax reform that spawns major economic growth and tax revenues.
Brat says the most obvious priority in replacing Obamacare needs to be lowering the costs.
“Everybody’s paying attention to who’s covered and whether everybody’s covered, but we’re ignoring the cost of 300 million Americans,” said Brat. “If you can half the cost, then the money we’re spending goes twice as far just on simple math.”
In the meantime, Brat urges the public to see through the slanted media coverage on repeal and replace. The congressman points out bronze plan deductibles are now averaging $12,000 per year while premiums increase roughly 20-25 percent per year.
“Then the press calls and they say, ‘Hey, can you assure us that every single person is going to be just as well off or have gold-plated health care?’ I’m like, ‘You’re missing the thesis. Obamacare is in a death spiral, according to the heads of Humana and Aetna,'” said Brat.
“The entire system is collapsing under it’s own weight. About five million people lost their plans due to Obamacare. Where’s the reporting on there? The reporting is just in the realm of fake news at times and they’re acting like the Republicans are in charge of the disaster that just happened over the past eight years,” said Brat.
Despite his frustrations with the media and a lack of communication within GOP ranks, Brat is still optimistic repeal and replace will happen and that it will be done right.
“The car’s in the ditch. Now we’ve got to pull it out, get some free market principles going and I think we have plenty of time to get it right,” said Brat.