Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association (RGA), is publicly supporting a renewed push to repeal and replace Obamacare with a state-centric system that devolves power away from Washington, D.C., out to the 50 states, he told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview on Tuesday evening.
Walker’s support for the plan, which was crafted by his fellow former 2016 GOP presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and will be introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), comes at a critical moment for the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. Unlike previous congressionally-offered plans, this one—as Breitbart News has reported in exclusive interviews with Santorum and Graham—block-grants control of healthcare out to the states.
It then allows each state to custom-craft their own healthcare system, and is modeled after Santorum’s successful mid-1990s effort to reform welfare—something that achieved bipartisan support as it was eventually backed by then President Bill Clinton, a Democrat. Perhaps more importantly, Walker says he will rally the Republican governors across the country from his RGA chairman slot–there are 34 of them currently–behind the effort, something that can help push the bill across the finish line in the Congress since a state’s governors can easily get buy-in from its senators and representatives.
“I think it’s awesome,” Walker told Breitbart News of the effort. “Many of us thought it was a perfect fit several months ago when Rick [Santorum] reached out to me and asked if I could reach out to them and get some support of the other senators and governors. It was a perfect fit because back in February when many of the governors were in Washington talking about this for some time. On healthcare, there are many of us in general who think sending more responsibilities and resources back to the states is directly what our founders intended in the Constitution be it healthcare, education, transportation, or otherwise. What a perfect way to kick start a true repeal and replace of Obamacare by sending it back to the states where we’re definitely more effective, more efficient, and more accountable to the people.”
Walker told Breitbart News that this concept is “just better in and of itself” than previous efforts to repeal Obamacare, and than Obamacare itself, because it kicks control out to the states—and is built to last forever rather than just a quick patch up of the healthcare system.
“This is, again if you believe in the Constitution, this is fundamentally at the essence of what the founders intended,” Walker said. “But beyond just the philosophical and the practical side, when Rick Santorum and I first talked about it a couple months ago the beauty of it is not just the philosophical purity of it but also the practical side of it—and by that I mean it’s a great parallel to 1996. This is why when Rick reached out to me as a governor, he said ‘hey, in 1996, the governors like Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin and John Engler in Michigan played a key role on welfare reform.’ He was in the House at the time, they passed the bill two times and it got vetoed each time by Bill Clinton as president. Eventually, they got him to sign it probably on the political side because it was an election year but also because they made sure there were adequate resources for the states to be effective in using it. They went out, Tommy Thompson and Engler and others, and dramatically reduced the rolls of welfare recipients in the states and across the country. That, today, is probably one of the—in the last 25 years—most dramatic conservative reforms and it took a system that was skyrocketing, leveled it off at the federal level, provided stable funding for the states which we still use today with TANF, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. So the leap from that is while it’s not exactly the same, the concept is similar: Give this to the states, make sure you start off with adequate funding, give maximum flexibility in terms of these block grants and then let the states make these decisions. Then the practical benefit is by doing it that you can create balance between states that took the Medicaid expansion and states like mine that did not. You also leave the decisions in terms of coverage up to the states so you can have balance between Senate and congressional conservatives, and congressional moderates because both of them can say ‘we’re just leaving this up to the states.’ It’s not just philosophically strong, it is practically I think it can work very much.”
Walker noted that since each state will be able to custom-craft their own healthcare system, it will make 50 separate laboratories for the best ideas to succeed and the worst ideas to fail. Walker said that leftist states like California will eventually discover that government-control of healthcare, if that is what California decides to do, does not work. Meanwhile, conservative states like Wisconsin will implement market-centric healthcare reform that does work—and eventually the best ideas will succeed and rise to the top across the country.
“That’s why conservatives not only who believe that constitutionally the power should not just flow to the states but to the people, but I also love the idea of saying ‘our ideas work so let the states like ours who are going to be aggressive and it will be market-driven and put the power in the hands of the people compete against places like California which might have a much more aggressive governmental role,” Walker said. “Note the difference out there, and eventually states that fail on this will turn to the states that are succeeding.’ We, in a small way, we kind of started to do this already because as a I mentioned before in Wisconsin I did not take the Medicaid expansion. I did not do a state exchange. Because of the way the court decision was on Medicaid, I was able to for the first time in my state’s history cover everyone living in poverty and take those above poverty and transition them into the marketplace where they were able to purchase coverage on their own. That, to me, is the kind of concept I want going forward. I want to do things like that, and so yeah if you’re down and out we’ll take care of you to begin with but if you’re able to work we’re going to transition you into the workplace and care for the most needy among us.”
Walker told Breitbart News that Obamacare is “collapsing,” and if Congress does nothing it will cause dozens of millions of Americans to lose their healthcare.
“It is collapsing,” Walker said of Obamacare. “That’s the thing that the defenders of Obamacare don’t recognize, that if we do absolutely nothing you’re looking at 28 million Americans losing coverage by 2026. So that’s without anything being done, without any other plan out there. The fallacy is well, they look at if you lose the state and the employer mandates, there are going to be some people who choose not to take that. That doesn’t mean that they can’t get it, it just means that they might choose not to. But the irony is under this system it’s neither affordable nor does it work. My neighboring state that was all in, Minnesota, they saw upwards of 67 percent increases in their premiums and they have got a several hundred million dollar shortfall in their budget because they have been running out to try and prop up the system which is another example of why the government propping things up is never a good idea. But it’s not affordable, but it’s because the government tried to force people into a system they didn’t want and they didn’t crave.”
Walker added that there is a strong potential for solid bipartisan support, “definitely Democrat governors,” for this plan to repeal Obamacare and restore America’s healthcare system.
“There’s no doubt that they’ll now, more than ever, they [Democrat governors] will want to have more control over their states on things that are otherwise controlled by the federal government,” Walker said. “The key question on this and it’s fairly apparent in the House and the Senate but it would even be amongst governors is that while they might privately tell you it makes some sense to do this, the Democrats are so locked into opposing anything that even remotely looks like it’s repealing Obamacare. That’s because they’re genuflecting to the idea that it can’t be repealed. They can say that it has to be fixed, it has got to be improved, but they can’t admit it has got to be repealed and they can’t acknowledge that it not just needs to be tweaked. If it needed to be tweaked that would be a whole different thing. This is fundamentally collapsing. It’s bringing down—and the irony is all this was done to try to get at a sliver of the American population that presumably didn’t have access to healthcare either because they worked at a place that didn’t have it or they were employed independently or things of that nature. They weren’t for people like the majority of us who get our healthcare through our employer or if you’re old enough, through Medicare. All of this was done that totally disrupted the marketplace for healthcare in this nation, and in turn jacked up the premiums and the costs for healthcare because of it to try and affect a sliver of the population and that’s inherently where the problem is. That’s why it can’t be tweaked, it can’t be fixed, it needs to be repealed outright and the replacement, to me the logical place to do it is at the states. Like I said, we’re much more effective and efficient, and we’re much more accountable to the people.”
If Republicans do successfully push this plan through to repeal Obamacare and kick control of healthcare out of Washington to the states, it will be politically popular too—and create huge boons for the GOP in next year’s midterm elections. There are 10 states with incumbent Democratic senators that President Donald Trump won in last year’s presidential election—Montana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, West Virginia, Florida, Indiana, and Wisconsin—as well as many states where Trump was close. Minnesota, which Walker mentioned is struggling under Obamacare, saw Trump come within less than 50,000 votes of winning and has a Democratic incumbent up for reelection. New Jersey has an incumbent, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who is facing criminal charges in federal court starting in September and may lose his seat if convicted. Maine’s Sen. Angus King (I-ME), an independent who caucuses with Democrats, faces a tough reelection in a state that Trump split with Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Maine is one of two states that splits its presidential electoral votes by congressional district, and Trump won half of Maine while Clinton won the other half). Virginia also has a competitive Senate race, as Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) faces voters again in November 2018.
Walker believes that if Republicans succeed in implementing this good policy effort in September, they will win political rewards from the voters as well next year.
“It’s a winner all the way around,” Walker said. “The hype and hysteria that had come out before, particularly at the House plan, was you had all these different variations. To me, it’s just a simple concept. We explain to people, ‘hey we don’t trust Washington to handle your healthcare. It’s better if we send it back to the states who can empower you on your healthcare decisions moving forward at the state and more importantly at the individual and family level.’ That’s something I think most Americans regardless of party can relate to and understand and appreciate. The specifics, it’s something the Congress—the House and the Senate—should easily be able to get behind this because we leave the specifics up to the states where you can actually talk to your state lawmaker, you can talk to your governor, you can talk to people at the state level and you can hold them accountable so that a state like Wisconsin doesn’t get stuck with the same criteria as a state like New York or California and each of us can do things that are more reflective of the people in our states.”
Walker added that he “absolutely” is going to be leading a group of governors—as chairman of the RGA, he represents an organization with 34 GOP governors nationwide—to push for this bill to pass.
“As the chair of the RGA, I’ve been constantly giving updates—we’ve been having calls on this almost since the beginning of the year, since about February,” Walker said. “As of late, I’d say probably in the last two months, we’ve been specifically talking about this idea and the variations of it. The key for it is hopefully in the next week or so we will have a better and more definitive idea of what the formula is under the bill they’re drafting. Once we do that, yeah, there’s no doubt about it. I’m going to be trying to get a number of my colleagues. I asked Doug [Ducey, the governor of Arizona] and Asa Hutchinson [the governor of Arkansas] and Phil Bryant [the governor of Mississippi] to join me at the White House several weeks ago along with Rick [Santorum] and Sen. [Bill] Cassidy [of Louisiana] and their teams as well. We thought it was a bit much to bring in all the Republican governors since there are 34 of us now, but we thought bringing in two from expansion and two from non-expansion states all with an interest in repealing and replacing—and that’s the key, of course, since there are so many of us Republican governors. There are governors who took the expansion, there are governors who inherited a state that took the expansion, there are governors who didn’t take it and kind of offset everyone else who did. So there’s a wide spectrum, the beauty of this concept is that all of those governors can be pleased with a package like this, and once we get the final formula and the bill hopefully here in the next week or two I think that’s something we can get a good chunk of the governors behind which in turn will help get a good number of members in the Senate and eventually the House behind as well.”
If Republicans do not succeed in doing this, Walker said, the consequences could be dire not just for American healthcare but for President Trump’s whole agenda.
“The only last just practical thing I’ll add, and I think Rick said this as well—I’ve certainly heard Lindsey Graham say this—is the other practical reality here is not only do I think just sending this to the states is just good policy ultimately but the other practical reality is the way this is headed is not only can they not pass repeal and replace, it’s slowing tax reform and it’s slowing other reforms up there,” Walker said. “This may very well be the last real chance they have at least this year if not this session to truly pass repeal and replace. Getting rid of Obamacare is important, but I think for the president and the House and the Senate, this helps us go ahead with an agenda that I think it overwhelmingly what the American people want on all these other issues—tax reform, regulatory reform, on down the line. They need a win on this and if they don’t do it my fear is at some point in the future there will be a decisive push to go the opposite direction and instead of repealing they will push for a government-run single-payer system which would be horrible for people. That is something we have to prevent from happening and I think this gives us our last best effort to do that.”
Walker also echoed Santorum in saying that this effort would drive a stake through the heart of efforts to pass single-payer government-controlled healthcare measures on a national level.
“Once the states have the ability, then there’s no way to [force single payer on everyone],” Walker said. “Even if California tried to head down that path, all the rest of us are going to go down the free market, patient-centered path and going to show our ideas over the government-driven ideas. Not only are we going to succeed, but the other states are eventually going to want to come to the plans that work.”