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GOP Rep. Tom Reed Weighs In On Trump's Move To Invalidate The Affordable Care Act


President Trump says he's going to make the GOP the party of health care, but he's told his Justice Department to support a legal effort to cancel the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare. This is a reversal from the administration's previous position to let the popular parts of the law stand - for instance, the law barring insurers from charging people more for pre-existing conditions.

The threat to Obamacare was a winning campaign issue for House Democrats, and it's been a source of frustration for Republicans who have tried and failed to repeal it many times. To talk more about this, we have Representative Tom Reed of New York. He's a Republican co-chair of the House Problem Solvers Caucus. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

TOM REED: It's great to be with you. Thank you for having me on.

CORNISH: So just so everyone's clear about what we're talking about, the administration is backing a lower court ruling that says the Obamacare system should be wiped out because the tax plan that you all passed last year took away the penalty for not having health insurance.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And if the Supreme Court rules that Obamacare is out, we will have a plan that's far better than Obamacare.

CORNISH: So as this makes its way through the courts, does the party have any kind of alternative to Obamacare right now?

REED: Well, you know, I believe we do in the sense of our solutions being based on bringing market pressure to bear into the health care arena to drive these costs down. However...

CORNISH: I guess I mean one with the votes - right? - (laughter) 'cause that's been the problem.

REED: Yeah, exactly.

CORNISH: You definitely can repeal it. You just can't seem to come up with an alternative.

REED: And that's exactly the issue. And that's one of the reasons I disagree with the position of repealing the entire law through the judicial system, through the court system. I'm a Republican who believes that, you know, what we should do is proactively address the problems of health care and leave the provisions that we agree with - the pre-existing condition protection, for example. Allow that to remain as the law of the land, and move forward. And I think that's going to be the case regardless of what happens in the court system.

CORNISH: You've called this a poor political move.

REED: I did. You know, not only substantively does it put millions of Americans in harm's way if the court agrees with the Justice Department that the whole law needs to be ruled unconstitutional. I think politically, you know, to not have a concrete proposal, a concrete plan on the Republican side that we could roll out with the votes, with Democrat, Republican support to get to the president's desk and signed into law is risky. It puts a lot of people, rightfully so, in an anxious position. And politically that causes us to probably be in a weaker position in my political opinion. Now, that's just my opinion. But, you know, that's why I disagree with this both on political and substantive basis.

CORNISH: You've said anxious position. Do you feel that Republicans won't be known as the party of health care - right? - that they'll somehow be the party against health care?

REED: Well, I think we're going to be a party that's going to offer solutions. And I just hope, you know, that what we can do as we have that debate is bring Democrats to the table that want to be practical, that want to actually solve this problem of health care costs ever-increasing. Love or hate the Affordable Care Act, it is not doing what they promised it would do, and that's bring health care costs down. And what we should be doing as Republicans and Democrats - finding ways to lower drug prices for folks, seniors in particular, lower access costs to health care overall and show these benefits in patients' pockets as opposed to negotiated between carriers and administrators.

CORNISH: So far, the Problem Solvers Caucus has not solved any problems, right? I think there's been one major piece of legislation you guys have sponsored related to opioid abuse, which was fairly popular. I mean, what's your response to the criticism that this group gives the appearance of compromise but doesn't have action, especially on an issue like health care?

REED: Well, fundamentally, I - I fundamentally and vigorously - I disagree with your assessment we haven't solved any problems. That's just false. What we have done is we got prison reform, criminal justice reform - we were the voice in the House that got that through the House, Senate and to the president's desk, signed into law. We have changed the House rules as the Problem Solvers Caucus members uniting together to empower members to bring legislation to the floor. Changing the rules of the House of Representatives is a generational, institutional reform that - the magnitude of that impact cannot be discounted.

So we are moving forward with solutions on many issues. And we're not - we're the first ones to tell you, you know, we're not looking to solve the issues with our proposals one way or the highway - it's our way or the highway. We take in, but we try to influence the agenda in a positive way. And if a piece of it gets to the finish line, we're good with that, too. It's not all about our ideas. It's about solving problems for the people back home.

CORNISH: That's Tom Reed of New York, Republican Congressman. Thank you for speaking with us.

REED: All right, thanks for having me on. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.