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Politics & Government

Koch Brothers Vow To Stand By Republicans Who Oppose Health Care Bill


Charles and David Koch are known for spending tens of millions of dollars when trying to achieve their policy goals. The free market conservatives have opposed the Affordable Care Act since its passage. But now two of their grassroots groups, Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners, not only oppose the bill; they say they'll spend millions to protect Republicans who stand with them in opposition.

Akash Chougule is the policy director for Americans for Prosperity. He joins me now in the studio. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

AKASH CHOUGULE: Thanks for having me on this evening.

CORNISH: With the power of President Trump to single out lawmakers who go against his priorities - you have pressure from House Republican lawmakers - did you feel like you guys had to back up lawmakers who wanted to vote against this bill?

CHOUGULE: This is nothing new for Americans for Prosperity. This, you know, announcement that we plan to defend lawmakers and applaud them for doing the right thing made a lot of headlines because President Trump and Speaker Ryan happened to be on the other side of this issue. But this is what Americans for Prosperity exists to do. It's...

CORNISH: But is this not a key moment?

CHOUGULE: It's a very key moment, and that's why - you know, that's why I think it's drawn these kind of headlines. But this is what we exist to do - is to hold accountable members for the promises they made on the campaign trail.

Republicans for seven years have run for office on the promise to repeal Obamacare. This bill simply does not do that, and so Republicans who stand on principle, supporting free market reforms and saying this bill does not go far enough - we want to educate their constituents that they stood on principle and did the right thing.

CORNISH: So is there a scenario where you would support a challenger to someone like Speaker Paul Ryan or another member of Republican leadership, educating their constituents, so to speak?

CHOUGULE: I'm not in a position to comment on exactly who, you know - what members of Congress and what amount of money we're going to spend in what districts. So I think that remains to be seen. This is all very fluid. It remains - our focus right now is on educating the American people about what this bill does. It simply does not go far enough, keeps intact too much of a law that has cancelled millions of people's health care plans, raise their costs, made it so they can't see their own doctor, raised their taxes.

We want to educate the American people on what this law contains in it, what Republicans promised to do for seven years, which is to repeal Obamacare and then finally, as you have mentioned, educate them when their lawmakers are going to Washington and doing what they promised, which is standing firm on principle and fighting for a full repeal of Obamacare.

CORNISH: So a full repeal - do you want any kind of replacement in reality, or are you fine to kind of - is it repeal or nothing?

CHOUGULE: No, of course not. I mean even that 2015 repeal bill that got to President Obama's desk - that had a two-year transition period built into it to enact free market health care reforms. The other organization you mentioned, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce - they laid out a memo almost a month ago now that laid out some free market health care reforms that we've talked about.

And you know, without getting, you know, too bogged down with the details, I'll give you one good example. So the most significant portion of insurance gains under Obamacare has come through the Medicaid expansion. That has also accordingly been the most expensive part of Obamacare for taxpayers. All we're saying is, of course we don't want to immediately repeal the Medicaid expansion and throw everybody off, you know, insurance that they're counting on.

Our solution is relatively simple. Let's freeze enrollment now. Taxpayers cannot afford this program in its current state. Let's shut the front door to this program. And states Arizona and Maine have both done this, one of which was approved by President Obama. Freeze enrollment, and as these able-bodied adults start working and their incomes grow, they become ineligible, and eventually the program shrinks through attrition.

CORNISH: And of course we know there are several Republican governors actually (laughter) who disagree with you about doing that, and that's part of this ongoing debate. Akash Chougule, policy director for Americans for Prosperity, we hope to talk to you again as this debate continues.

CHOUGULE: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

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