Senate Republicans appear unable to pass a straight repeal of Obamacare or a more comprehensive plan, and one of the most fiscally conservative members of Congress says the GOP either needs to do what it promised or prepare to watch the rest of the Trump agenda wither away.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he still plans to hold a vote on repeal, identical to the one that passed Congress in 2015. However, four Republicans are already opposed, including three who voted for the 2015 plan that was vetoed by President Obama.
Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; and Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia, are now opposing the plan they backed two years ago. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is also opposed, but she also rejected the 2015 bill.
For those pounding the table for repeal, the Senate’s failure is stunning.
“I thought there would be some movement toward the 2015 plan, but then the three senators who previously voted for the 2015 bill came out and said they were going to vote against the 2015 bill. That is fairly shocking,” said Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., a member of the House Freedom Caucus and the House Budget Committee.
“When you vote 50 times to repeal and you say you’re going to repeal, then it’s fairly simple. You ought to do what you told the American people you were going to do. So now these folks are really, really hurting the Republican brand,” said Brat.
He says the GOP needs some serious soul-searching.
“What do we stand for? Do we stand for small federal government? Do we stand for free markets? Do we stand for fiscal responsibility, or are we just going down the Democrat path and bankrupting the country?” asked Brat.
“The rest is just pure politics, and I don’t care for that realm. The first principles are what made us the greatest country on earth. You put Adam Smith and James Madison together and you get some great outcomes. We’re departing from those first principles every day,” said Brat.
Hear the interview:
He says what many Republicans are focused on in Washington is a far cry from what voters want from them.
“I just don’t understand how you can be that far off the reservation politically and that tone deaf to what the American people want. Everybody back home is just yelling to get it done. We’re once again tone deaf up in the bubble,” said Brat.
Brat is also frustrated by how Republicans have tortured a simple policy approach into something far more complicated.
“Once you change the definition of repeal … to a health care thing run by the federal government with all sorts of subsidies and billions of dollars for other programs attached, you’re getting too far away from Republican first principles. The messaging hasn’t been good because we keep twisting the meaning of common sense words,” said Brat.
Brat is also concerned about how the failure to pass health care legislation will impact other major priorities in this Congress, especially major tax reform. He says that between not eliminating Obamacare taxes and the expected scuttling of the border adjustability tax, Congress is already starting with a $2 trillion disadvantage.
As a result, the Trump administration is now adjusting its push to lower the corporate tax rate. Instead of dropping it to 15 percent, Brat says the president’s team is now gunning for the 20-25 percent range.
He says the GOP simply cannot screw up tax reform.
“The worst thing we can do is to goof up tax reform and not get this economy rolling again. Everything hinges on that,” he said.
Brat still holds out hope for a health-care bill since President Trump is still energized to get something done, although Brat suggests the president has been more “transactional” in his approach and needs to be more specific about what he wants.
He is not enthused about bringing Democrats into the talks since that would lead to government in health care.
“I think he’s starting to recognize that when you move toward the Democrat side, the policy end up utterly complex and fails,” said Brat.
The congressman also laughs off the assertion of Democrats that Republican opposition to Obamacare – and not the law itself – is responsible for uncertainty that drives up the cost of premiums and deductibles for many Americans.
“What’s a central planner going to say about the monopoly. It’s never their fault because they own it,” said Brat. “They have to give that kind of response because they don’t have a free market system that is sustainable over the long run.”