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Politics & Government

Minnesota Republican Rep. Tom Emmer On Trump, Russia And Obamacare Repeal


This week, Donald Trump will become the nation's 45th president. The transition has been rife with controversy over conflicts of interest, ties with Russia and other issues. To hear one view from Capitol Hill, we reached Congressman Tom Emmer. He's a Republican from Minnesota, and he was an early supporter of Donald Trump's.

Congressman Emmer, thank you so much for coming onto the program.

TOM EMMER: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Good morning. Let's start with the Affordable Care Act. This week, the House and the Senate took an important first step towards dismantling the health care law. How long do you think it'll take for you and your colleagues to come up with an alternative?

EMMER: Well, the incoming administration and the president-elect have committed to unwind this law, this very unsuccessful law within the first 100 days, Lulu. And it's especially important in my state of Minnesota where people have seen an increase in premiums just this year of somewhere between 50 and 67 percent. We are the fourth-highest premium increase state in the country. And it's costing people the opportunity to gain access to the best health care in the world.

So they've committed that within the first hundred days, we're going to unwind this law and start to give Americans - return the decision-making authority back to the states and give Americans the ability to make the choices that they need and access the health care that they need.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Are you willing, though, to repeal it without a replacement, leaving millions of people potentially uninsured?

EMMER: Well, I think what we're on our way to doing - people are making a big deal out of words. I think we're going to repeal and restore. And that will happen almost simultaneously. We're going to repeal this failed law, this misguided law. And we're going to restore the ability of states to craft the solutions that are most important to their populations.

And how can that happen? Well, the incoming Health and Human Services secretary - my state is requesting waivers to be able to design the products necessary to service our population. And once we have the administration in place and the new secretary and those waivers can be granted, we can do these things simultaneously.

As for the federal policy, you know, Minnesota was a leader, Lulu, before this law was enacted. We had 94 percent of our citizens who were insured. And those who didn't have insurance had access if they chose, the vast majority of them, under an available program. We had a pre-existing pool called MCHA, so if you had been denied because of a pre-existing condition, there was a option for you. We need to be able to go back and do those things. And the - as we move forward, I think, for the rest of the states, the federal solution might be just laying out criteria that the states must meet for their populations. They can...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But sir, there seems to be...

EMMER: ...Design the program but lay out the criteria.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Sorry to interrupt - but there seems to be a lack of a clear plan, a clear way forward. The Democrats are saying - why completely scrap something that you don't have a plan to replace it with?

EMMER: To the contrary, Lulu - I think that's the media's interpretation of the Democrats' agenda. I mean, this thing is a complete failure. It's denying Americans access to the health care that they need. What we're going to do is repeal this failed law and restore the decision-making authority to the states simultaneously through these waivers that will allow the states to do what they need to do to service their population.

And then for the long term, you need to get Democrats and Republicans on board together to pass policies that will set criteria for the states that they must meet, whether that's a pre-existing pool or allowing your adult children to remain on your policy or other things. But you got to stop this one-size, top-down, fits-all solution from Washington, D.C., because it doesn't work.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Just briefly, sir - we only have a few seconds left - are you willing to work with the Democrats, though, to come up with a comprehensive plan?

EMMER: Oh, absolutely. I mean, we aren't going to do this the way the Democrats did it - with no Republican input, with no Republican votes. You can't get something that lasts. You're going to have to have both Republicans and Democrats and everybody across this country finding solutions that work for the vast majority - for everyone in the country. And...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Congressman Tom Emmer of Minnesota, that's all we have time for. Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.