U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi talked healthcare reform, capital investment in impoverished areas and the difficulty of legislating in a partisan environment Friday afternoon at the Moritz College of Law.
The 45-minute presentation — part of the college’s Congressional Conversations series, seeking to educate students about the legislative process in a nonpartisan setting — consisted of a Q&A hosted by Trevor Brown, dean of the John Glenn College of Public Affairs, and 10 minutes of questions from audience members. The crowd consisted of students, faculty and staff from the law college, as well as from the Glenn College of Public Affairs, which cosponsors the speaker series. Tiberi, an Ohio State alumnus and Republican, has represented Ohio Congressional District 12 for 16 years and is chairman of the health subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Brown asked Tiberi about the Republican legislative agenda and why the party opted to attempt healthcare reform so early on, and why the Republican repeal bill which was pulled from consideration before coming to a vote in the House earlier this month due to a lack of committed ‘yes’ votes.
Republicans at all levels campaigned on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, Tiberi said, adding that, though many have gained health coverage, deductibles and premiums have skyrocketed for some constituents, making it unaffordable for them.
“Some in my party say, ‘Well, just let (the ACA) unravel.’ The president at times has said that. The problem with that is real people suffer the consequences as that unravels, and I’m not for that,” he said.
Another high legislative priority for Republicans is tax reform, Tiberi said. He said American manufacturers who export materials are susceptible to both a tax in foreign countries, as well as a domestic tax on profits.
“Most other countries in the world where our competitors compete with us, they don’t do that,” he said. “They don’t double tax.”
Overall, the tax code is far too complex, Tiberi said.
“The tax code is three times the length of the Bible and has none of its good news,” he said, quoting former Rep. David Camp, of Michigan.
Noting economic hardships in both rural and urban regions, Tiberi championed a bill he is working on which he says would ease taxes for businesses looking to open in impoverished areas.
“This could be part of tax reform,” he said. “To defer capital gains if people are investing in these poor areas.”
Brown asked Tiberi his thoughts on why the partisan political divide is so great and how legislation can still be accomplished in such an environment. Tiberi, who holds a degree in journalism from Ohio State, said the problem is one of what most easily keeps news consumers interested.
“What’s interesting? A congressman getting on (cable TV) screaming, or yelling, or cutting somebody down, whether it be on the left or on the right,” he said, adding that to think of television pundits such as Rachel Maddow or Sean Hannity as anything more than entertainers is problematic.
Tiberi also said that both conservatives and liberals increasingly consume different sets of information and isolate themselves from opposing ideologies.
“I’ve got members of my team that are in 70 percent Republican districts, they’ve not only never met an immigrant, I don’t think they’ve ever met a Democrat,” said Tiberi, who mentioned his parents were immigrants. “I’ve got constituents who live in liberal parts of my district who have a hard time understanding why anybody in Central Ohio would want a wall built. I have to tell you, I’ve got constituents who have fled my office who are upset that it hasn’t started (being built) yet.”
In response to how a question on how to legislate in such a partisan environment, Tiberi said lawmakers need to work together as much as possible.
“One of the intriguing things about our political system is it’s supposed to be about compromise,” he said.
Using the failed Republican healthcare proposal as an example, Tiberi said that compromise means drafting legislation which has a chance to pass, rather than what may be someone’s ideal.
“That compromise, whether it’s on the left or the right … is controversial,” he said.
Tiberi later was given the opportunity to reiterate his point about hyper-partisanship when an audience member asked him to speculate about the “end game” of the House Freedom Caucus, which pushed for the ACA repeal bill to be more conservative. He blamed the group of fiscal hawks for intentionally tanking the legislation, which was pulled from a vote earlier this month, because they weren’t keeping in mind that not only did moderate Republicans need to support it, but President Donald Trump ultimately had to sign their version of the bill.
“If I’m a Freedom Caucus member and I say, ‘I am only going to vote for this bill if I get rid of a provision that requires insurance companies to insure people with pre-existing conditions,’ and I know that the president is not for that, am I really trying to make it conservative? Or have I figured out a way to vote against the bill, or take it down?” Tiberi said. “That tells me (they) don’t want to vote for the bill. I don’t know how to answer that question for people with that mindset.”
Correction 4/1: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that in addition to chairman of the health subcommittee, Tiberi was also chairman of the tax policy subcommittee. The article has been updated to reflect this change.