Cruz: 2017 Could Be ‘Heartbreaking Missed Opportunity’ for Republican Congress
WASHINGTON – Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told PJM he would “readily vote for a one-sentence repeal of Obamacare” and that there is still “a lot of common ground” among Republicans on “replacement policies” for the Affordable Care Act.
Cruz predicted that congressional Republicans would likely pass “significant tax reform” in the summer or fall.
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) recently introduced a one-sentence bill to repeal Obamacare after House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) announced that the American Health Care Act was being pulled from consideration. PJM asked Cruz if supporting Brooks’ bill would be a good strategy for Republicans going forward.
“I would readily vote for a one-sentence repeal of Obamacare. Indeed, I have introduced legislation myself similar to that,” Cruz told PJM this week in an interview after his speech at a Federalist Society event on “Economic Liberty in the United States” at the National Press Club. “There seems to be strong Republican interest in replacement policies that expand competition, expand choices and drive down prices, and I think there’s a lot of common ground. We can come together to get that done.”
During the Federalist Society event, Cruz said the current Congress has the potential to be the “most productive” in decades.
“Now we’ve got an opportunity in this town to do an enormous amount of good. Where we are today as a result of the election: the Republicans have been given control of the White House, of every federal agency and of both houses of Congress – that does not happen often…. Now, we could do an enormous amount of good or we could screw it up badly. In my view, there are four big-ticket, priority items this year to which I am devoting virtually all my time and attention,” Cruz told the gathering.
“If we repeal Obamacare, having significant regulatory reform, major tax reform and confirm a strong conservative to the Supreme Court – we do all of that in 2017 – 2017 will be a blockbuster year. This has the potential to be the most productive Congress in decades. On the other hand, if we screw those four up, 2017 could be a heartbreaking missed opportunity. So that’s what the stakes are – and I’m excited. I’m energized to be in the arena working to get it done,” he added.
Despite the “rocky few days” in the GOP-led House, Cruz said the elimination of Obamacare should be the No. 1 priority for the Republicans in Congress.
“We have got to get it done. Failure is not an option. You can't spend six years campaigning and telling the voters, 'If you elect us, we'll do this,' and then don't do it," Cruz said. “And it’s worth remembering, look, the House plan didn’t have the votes – that House plan had been public 18 days – 18 days does not a final product make. The task before Congress is very simple: Sit down and bring people together, focus on common ground and how to get the task done.”
Cruz said he sat in “hundreds of meetings” with President Trump, Vice President Pence, White House staff and lawmakers over the past several weeks.
“My biggest disagreement with the House plan is it didn’t lower premiums. The No. 1 cause of unhappiness and dissatisfaction with Obamacare is premiums are too high – an average family’s premiums have increased over $5,000 per year – what I hear from Texans, everyday people say, ‘I can’t afford health insurance’ and the biggest test for success will be, do we drive those premiums down? And how do you drive the premiums down? You drive the premiums down by getting rid of the legal mandates that drove them up in the first place,” Cruz said.
Cruz suggested the GOP repeal the insurance mandates in Obamacare, allow insurance plan purchases across states lines, allow association health plans for small businesses and allow individuals to purchase health plans with health savings accounts with pre-tax dollars. Cruz said “most” of those ideas were not in the House bill that was pulled.
“Most of those have virtual unanimity among Republicans, yet most of those ideas were not in the House bill. How do you get common ground? I’ve got a crazy idea, how about we start with consensus? What does everyone agree with? OK, good, let’s start with that,” he said.
Cruz said the GOP was “effective” as the “loyal opposition” during the Obama years but the “entire world changed” on Election Day.
“Now our task is very different. Now our task is to deliver on what was promised – to actually get accomplished what we’ve been talking about forever and ever and ever. It’s not easy, but it’s an exciting task ahead for us,” he said before “inviting” creative outside-the-box ideas and suggestions from Federalist Society members.
Cruz told the audience that eliminating Obamacare and reforming the tax code together would “unleash” the U.S. economy.
“I think we are likely to pass significant tax reform either this summer or fall. Now, the contours of it, the details of it are very much up for debate. There’s disagreement within the House. There’s disagreement within the Senate – between the House and Senate and within the administration. Other than that, everyone’s on the same page but, you know what, we can get that done too. In fact, I think we get it done the same way we get Obamacare done by starting with areas of consensus,” Cruz said.
“I’ll tell you what I have shared with the president on tax reform, there’s two words: bold and simple. I think there’s power to bold simplicity and the combination, by the way, of reg reform and tax reform, if done right and with Obamacare repeal will unleash this economy. It has the potential to create millions of new jobs, high-paying jobs to raise wages. And the fourth big thing is confirming a strong conservative to replace Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court. And next week, the Senate will take up Judge Gorsuch and I believe next week we will confirm Neil Gorsuch as the next associate of the U.S. Supreme Court,” he added.
After the speech, Cruz emphasized that “failure” is not an option for Congress when it comes to Obamacare repeal.
“We have got to get it done. Failure is not an option, so we need to come together, honor our commitments to actually repeal Obamacare and, most critically, drive down the cost of premiums so health insurance is more affordable. We can do that. The House bill was pulled on Friday after just 18 days – 18 days is a very short time period, and there is a great deal of consensus among Republicans about how to get this job done,” he said.
“I am working night and day, meeting with House members, meeting with senators, meeting with the administration trying to find common ground to bring us together to actually deliver on the promises we made.”