In the first of a series of town halls planned for the congressional recess of August, Representative Jared Polis of Colorado’s District 2 met with constituents on Sunday in Broomfield, and later in the day with those of Boulder County on.
At the start of the meeting held at Monarch High School in Lafayette, Polis acknowledged the work of members of the public in phoning and writing their representatives which he said was influential in the defeat of the repeal attempt by the Senate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on July 25, “Truly what made the difference were those calls, those letters, and those marches.” Polis also credited Senator John McCain of Arizona for his vote against the repeal.
Polis said that the defeat was not only a result of the product, but in the process since amendments were not allowed, and that he himself offered three amendments which were all voted down, one of which involved pricing transparency and the re-importation of prescription drugs, or allowing prescription drugs to be purchased from abroad.
But Polis warned that the efforts challenging the ACA are not over given Vice-President Pence’s announcement on Saturday that the work to repeal the ACA will continue. Polis acknowledged that the ACA could stand improvement, but that he would not support anything that did not increase the number of people covered, that reduced costs, and whether a proposal would improve or maintain quality, “We’re not going to get into a negotiation where if they say were no longer kicking 20 million people off of insurance, we’re only kicking 10 million people off, that’s not a discussion we’re interested in having.”
The group calling themselves “No Labels Problem Solvers” of which Polis is a member includes 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans and has produced a white paper which proposes what he says are improvements to the ACA. Polis stressed that he would like to see emphasis on reducing costs such as on prescription medications, Medicare reforms, and reference pricing, “If we can do more on cost containment, even with the existing pot of money, we can expand coverage. That discussion hasn’t happened yet, but there are certainly people on both sides of the aisle interested in that.”
Regarding tax reform, Polis supports getting rid of loopholes and bringing down rates for everybody, but said that so far, President Trump’s proposals have only favored the rich at the expense of future generations, “It’s not budget neutral. It would put an enormous increase in the deficit. The revenues are far less than what it costs.” While he says the proposal presented in the House by Paul Ryan and Kevin Brady is revenue neutral but relies on revenue from what they term the “Border Adjustment Tax” or a 20% tariff on imported goods. Polis criticized this proposal on the grounds that tariffs usually draw “reciprocal “tariffs” that would negatively affect manufacturing and agricultural jobs locally. Secondly he says that the tax is regressive and like a sales tax, the tax would be regressive and would impact lower income people hardest.
Instead, Polis supports a carbon tax or to a lesser extent a VAT tax to bring down tax rates, “As long as it’s revenue neutral, there’s potential there. I think it’s something Paul Ryan really wants, I think the president just wants to claim victory about something.”
Polis pointed to two areas of encouragement where he says that Republicans are showing “backbone” to stand up to President Trump. One was preventing the president from having authority to make appointments during the recess. Although a similar move took place under the Obama administration, Polis said that under the current administration, that it wasn’t expected.
The second area was the July 25 passage in the House (419 to 3) and the July 27 passage in the Senate (98 to 2) of a bill that removed the authority of the president to withdraw sanctions against Russia. Mention of this issue drew applause from the crowd, “Overwhelmingly even House Republicans and Senate Republicans said, ‘We’re not sure we can trust this guy on Russia policy.’”