U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman sat down for a conversation with Talk Business & Politics Daily. He discussed the late Fourth District Congressman Jay Dickey, who passed away last week. Westerman also previewed the upcoming week of business in the nation’s capital, noting that healthcare changes are the critical driver for tax reform and infrastructure investments.
In speaking about former Congressman Jay Dickey, who died last week, Westerman acknowledged that Dickey’s decision to sleep at his Congressional office versus renting or buying a home or condo in Washington started a trend that continues today.
“I didn’t realize it about him until I got to D.C.” said Westerman. “A lot of us stay in our office up there, and Jay Dickey was the pioneer of that. The Speaker still stays in his office because we’re usually there three, maybe four nights a week, and it just works out a lot better to come back to your office, read for hours, and get up and go to the gym and get ready for the next day. Jay Dickey was the one who started that.”
This week, Congress is poised to possibly try again with a House vote on healthcare and move on tax reform. Westerman said he hopes a healthcare vote takes place because it’s the lynchpin for other House business.
“We have got to do something on healthcare. If we don’t get healthcare done, it’s going to be very hard to do tax reform, and it’s going to be very hard to do an infrastructure package. Through the process, I think they build on each other. That’s why I feel confident something is going to happen on healthcare,” said Westerman.
He’s confident that progress has been made since a failed attempt to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act a few weeks ago. Westerman supported Speaker Ryan’s plan, which was endorsed by President Trump, but it couldn’t muster enough Republican votes on the House floor.
“I know there’s been a lot of work going on, and a lot of it is member-to-member work on the front end,” he said. “We got a big amendment added to it right before we left for the break that has to do with risk pools that’ll help lower the premiums for everyone. Then I know there’s been a lot of work on how you handle the essential health benefits. I think there will be another amendment on it when we get back to D.C. I really hope we vote on it soon.”
When asked if the vote could happen too fast – as many suggested doomed the first attempt – Westerman says many members are plenty up to speed on the details of some of the changes being discussed.
“I think healthcare has to happen first because of the process. We’re using the Budget Reconciliation Act, which if you think we don’t have time to talk about healthcare, well, you should try to describe budget reconciliation. Essentially, budget reconciliation allows us to get a bill through the Senate without 60 votes, and we’re limited what we can put in that bill. We’re using the 2017 reconciliation bill through healthcare to do taxes. We need to do the 2018 budget reconciliation,” he said.
“If we go ahead and pass the 2018 budget with the reconciliation instructions, it negates the 2017 budget, so we lose that opportunity to do healthcare with a simple majority vote in the Senate. That’s why there’s such a big push to go ahead and get the healthcare done. There’s been a lot of … It’s not going to be ‘we have to pass it to find out what’s in it.’ This bill has been read, has been amended. There’s been a lot of work that’s gone into it, and it didn’t just start with this Congress.”