Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) joined SiriusXM host Alex Marlow on Friday’s Breitbart News Daily for a look ahead at the battle for tax reform and the potential return of an Obamacare repeal.
“We’ve talked about a lot of principles,” DeSantis said of preparations for political war in the House. “There’s a rough outline. The biggest fight, up until the August recess, had been over the inclusion of a border adjustment tax. I was opposed to that, and many were opposed to it. I basically made the argument it’s not good policy, but even more importantly, it will kill tax reform because you’re just not going to pass it if that’s in there.”
“The Speaker, to his credit, he took it out at the end of July, and so you have kind of the other components, which I think we could rally around,” he reported.
“I hope it’s not the same thing that happened in health care,” said DeSantis. “In health care, you had leadership I think in both the House and the Senate drafting the bill with leadership staffers, lobbyists from the health insurance industry, and you actually had Politico and the industry groups would get the text of the bill before an individual senator, an individual member of Congress, and then it was kind of thrust out there. I think that makes it less likely that tax reform will actually happen.”
“I would recommend that the president really line up specifics on what he wants, and then submit that to the Congress because, if the president’s doing it, people are more likely to rally around it. If it’s done kind of in secret, with different key staffers, and then says, ‘hey, here’s our bill, take it or leave it,’ that’s going to cause friction because members want to be involved,” he observed.
“I’m hoping that the process will be better. I think it will be because they’ve been working on tax reform for a long time. We’ve been having meetings throughout the last several months. I think the more the president can settle on the key things he wants, I think that makes the path in the House much clearer,” he said.
DeSantis said conservatives “are not going to be the problem on tax reform.”
“A lot of us were put on this Earth to cut taxes. We really want to take a sledgehammer to the tax code,” he said. “I think the thing that will potentially make it more difficult for conservatives is if we get caught up in trying to please the Congressional Budget Office.”
“Whatever estimates they do just have not been accurate in the past, so don’t do your policy to please some budget geek in the Congressional Budget Office,” he elaborated. “Do it so that you’re maximizing economic growth. Good policy I think trumps some synthetic analysis. If we’re doing that, I think we’re going to be in really good shape, and I think you’ll see huge support from conservatives for this.”
Marlow noted that an Obamacare repeal is actually back on the congressional radar screen, with a new effort led by former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania gathering support from both prominent Republican politicians and conservative think tanks.
“I think the attractiveness of it is that, with Lindsey Graham doing it, he can probably get McCain to vote for it,” said DeSantis, referring to Senator Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) approval of the Santorum effort and Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) notorious eleventh-hour rescue of Obamacare from the previous repeal effort.
“Obviously, we were one vote short of even doing the ‘skinny’ repeal. My question is, okay, you’re going to block-grant the Obamacare to the states, let states run their own Medicaid programs. I think that’s great. Conservatives have wanted to do that for a long time. Is that also going to be combined with, say, a Cruz consumer freedom amendment so that we can also run our own insurance markets?” he asked.
“Because if you still have Obamacare regulations jacking up premiums on the insurance markets, you’re not going to get relief to the consumers,” he explained. “So in a state like Florida, where we did not expand Medicaid, getting the block grant to run our traditional program is good — don’t get me wrong — but the thing that’s really hurting people here are the premium increases. You have to block-grant that portion of Obamacare as well. That’s kind of the issue I have.”
“I mean, look, if you just block-granted Medicaid and got rid of the individual and employer mandates, would that be better than the status quo? Yes, but I think the devolution should include the insurance apparatus and really devolving the regulatory responsibilities of states,” DeSantis argued. “Because then states can take the money, either from the stability fund that we had talked about in our bills to do kind of a high-risk mitigation for high-risk patients which could really lower premiums for other people. They could also figure out how to do individual market subsidies.”
“There’s a lot you could do there, and I think innovative governors would really have an ability to bring some real relief to people. I think it’s a promising approach. I would much rather the Senate move on that in early September, pass it, then the House will pass it. I mean, we are going to pass what they pass, and then the president would be able to sign it,” he said.
“It opens the door, I think, to really good health care reform. It doesn’t guarantee it. I mean, look, if you live in California, if you live in New York, you’re not going to see any changes from Obamacare — or in Illinois with those governments in place, the legislatures — but you have conservative states where you have good entrepreneurial governors and legislatures that want to change. I think you can see some progress,” DeSantis anticipated.
Marlow sought the congressman’s reaction to rumors that President Trump may repeal President Obama’s DACA amnesty program, despite widespread belief he had been intimidated out of pursuing that 2016 campaign promise.
“I think the president in the campaign was clear that DACA is not lawful,” DeSantis replied. “If you remember, Obama tried to do a legislative amnesty in 2010, with a Democratic Congress, and the bill failed. What he then did, he turned around a year and a half later and he basically did it through the bureaucracy. He was exercising lawmaking power.”
“DAPA was similar, it was just a less sympathetic class of recipients. But that is the president usurping Congress’s authority. I thought what they should have done on Day One is just say, ‘look, we’re not going to issue anything new because we don’t think it’s lawful, so we don’t want to be complicit in that,’” he said.
“And then you would have some people who have it, and should they rely on it if the government induced them to do it? You can argue about that, but certainly to do new work permits and new Social Security numbers when you don’t have lawful authority to do that — I don’t think that should have been done from Day One,” said DeSantis.
Marlow asked DeSantis for his estimate of how disaster relief in hurricane-ravaged Texas is proceeding.
“I think the government has done a much better job than they’ve done in some of these other storms,” he replied. “I think the president deserves a lot of credit. I think his FEMA director has been very strong.”
“What we’ve seen in these disasters as well, which the media doesn’t like to focus on, is a lot of times it’s the state and local officials who can make or break this stuff,” he continued. “Bush got blamed for Katrina, but if you look in Mississippi and Florida and Alabama, they had good governors who got everything done. It was just Louisiana which was a disaster because you had a bad mayor and a bad governor. So you look at people like Greg Abbott in Texas and they’re doing a very good job.”
“It’s a really, really tough situation, and we’ve got to help those folks,” said DeSantis. “I’m going to be involved in giving to private charity for sure, but obviously Congress, we’re going to be legislating the FEMA budget coming up, so I’m sure there’s going to be accommodations made for Texas.”
“We have seen some good leadership really from the ground level up, and so, in a really tragic situation, I think you’ve seen a lot of the best of America,” he said.
DeSantis mocked the media’s obsession with finding some way to criticize President Trump, no matter how bizarre the angle: “In defense of the media, had Melania not worn those high heels on the helicopter, wouldn’t everything be so much better? I mean, they’re really focusing on the core things here.”
“The media, they just keep burying themselves. I mean, it’s just unbelievable some of the things they did. I’m sure you guys have talked about that Politico cartoon where they’re basically trying to indict the people of Texas and all this stuff. I mean, it really is, these people just live in a different universe, and they’ve lost so much credibility,” DeSantis said ruefully.
Marlow proposed that, contrary to conventional pundit wisdom, the 2018 midterm election is looking good for Republicans because “the Democrats are so unappealing right now, and their behavior over the last week has clarified that for a lot of us.”
“I think the Democrats and the media is going to be the best Republican turnout operation in 2018,” DeSantis agreed. “The Trump voters are going to come out, even if they may be disappointed with their individual Republican senator, whoever is up, because they don’t want the media and the Democrats to get their way and win. I think that that will end up redounding to our benefit.”
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