Rep. Phil Roe
KINGSPORT — Republicans can’t defund or repeal Obamacare — also known as the Affordable Care Act — because they don’t control both houses of Congress, U.S. Rep. Phil Roe told about 75 constituents at a Town Hall meeting Thursday night.
“We can’t get anything through the Senate (led by a Democrat majority),” Roe, R-Tenn., admitted.
While Roe was fielding written Obamacare questions from the group, one constituent who asked not to be identified pleaded with the third-term congressman: “Work with Obamacare. Make it better.”
That comment was met with loud “nos” from the rest of the audience inside the auditorium at the Kingsport Center for Higher Education.
A centerpiece of the health care reform law — a mandate that all individuals have health insurance — starts on Jan. 1, 2014.
But Roe noted the Internal Revenue Service won’t necessarily garnish wages or impose tax liens if people do not comply with the mandate.
Roe said that despite a Democrat-led Senate, House Republicans are poised to trot out an alternative health care reform plan calling again for Obamacare repeal; no mandates or tax increases; allowing health insurance to be purchased across state lines; expanding health savings accounts; medical liability reform; and getting rid of taxpayer-supported abortions.
Roe said the GOP plan has been “shopped” to groups like the National Federation of Independent Business, Heritage Foundation, Club for Growth and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“We want to maintain the doctor-patient relationship and lower cost,” Roe, a retired obstetrician/gynecologist and member of the House GOP Physicians Caucus, said.
Roe warned the Independent Payment Advisory Board built into Obamacare to rein in Medicare costs will damage an already underfunded Medicare system.
He predicted the 15-member board — to be confirmed by the Senate — may end up being run by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
“It’s easy to control one person,” Roe said of President Obama’s control over Sebelius. “You couldn’t get 60 people in the Senate to agree the sun is coming up in the east.”
Roe also pointed to problems with the Obama administration’s decision to delay by one year an employer mandate to provide workers with health insurance or face monetary penalties.
On federal spending, Roe told the group about one third of the current $3.54 trillion federal budget is discretionary and defense spending.
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and interest costs are driving trillions of dollars in national debt, he added.
“If we completely did away with the Department of Defense and everything non-defense ... we still have a budget deficit,” Roe stressed. “That’s how big a hole we have. We’re talking about astronomical amounts of money we don’t have. ... There is no good outcome of that.”
Roe promised House Republicans will also present a tax reform package later this year to lower the 35 percent corporate tax rate by 10 percentage points.
On immigration reform, Roe said House Republicans will break up the issue into bills expanding an e-verify system scrutinizing employers and encouraging visas for scientists and engineers.
Roe also said the U.S. should stay out of the Syrian conflict, he criticized the U.S. response to the attack killing U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, Libya, and he called for “heads to roll” at the IRS for investigating conservative nonprofit groups.
“Sometimes I will pick the phone up and call friends I know who will tell me the truth and say ‘Am I making any sense?’” Roe said of reaction to his views. “They’ll say ‘Everything’s fine.’ (But) they tell me up here (in Washington) I’m crazy.”