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Rep. Dan Donovan On The New GOP Health Care Overhaul Effort


We begin this hour with rumblings that a health care bill may be back on the table. You'll recall that didn't go so well back in March. Last month, Republicans tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act. That would be President Obama's signature health care law. But conservative Freedom Caucus Republicans could not reach a compromise with their more moderate colleagues, so might this new push fare better? Republican Congressman Dan Donovan is on the line. He represents Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn. And he opposed the March bill, saying it wouldn't negatively affect his constituents. Congressman, good morning.

DAN DONOVAN: Good morning, Mary Louise. Thanks for having me on today.

KELLY: We are glad to have you on today. Have you seen this new health care proposal? Is it clear to you what's different?

DONOVAN: We haven't seen all of it. There was an amendment that was dropped by a member of the Freedom Caucus and a member of the more moderate Tuesday Group on Thursday. But I am sure there's other modifications, tweaks, amendments that the staff has been working on to try to get this to a 216 vote.

KELLY: OK, so the 216 that would be needed to get it out of the House. Well, from what you have seen, has it changed enough from the March version to win your vote?

DONOVAN: It hasn't, Mary Louise. It maybe...

KELLY: It has not.

DONOVAN: There may be other people who these modifications help get them from a no vote to a yes vote, but for the people I represent - I'm the only Republican member of New York City. This is a very harmful bill to New York City. It's going to add tax burdens to city residents without receiving any further benefits. What it was going to do to seniors - allowing insurance companies to charge seniors five times as much as they charge a young healthy person. Right now, the law's three times as much, so - at a time when seniors are working, living on a more moderate and limited income at a time in their lives when they probably need the health care more than they need in their early years. I think this is going to be harmful to them.

KELLY: So those are - and these are the same concerns that you were expressing back in March - that you thought this would be harmful to your constituents. Based on the parts you've seen, does this new version address some of the concerns that the Freedom Caucus Republicans had?

DONOVAN: It may have. I think it's going to give states some more freedoms to waive out of allowing companies to give affordable and essential health care benefits. They're going to need more wiggle room for the states to decide what's best for people in their states. And essential benefits was one of the sticking points, so now states can opt out of covering those. I think some of the folks who were no votes may become yes votes just for that one issue.

KELLY: It sounds like this newest plan to overhaul health care is very much a moving target. Like, you're going to have an interesting week coming up.

DONOVAN: I believe so. We also have to deal with this - the federal - the continuing resolution that's keeping the federal government running.

KELLY: This is...

DONOVAN: We return to Congress on Tuesday and that expires on Friday, so I suspect that's going to be the first thing on the plate to continue our government running after Friday. But the president has an ambitious agenda. He wants to do health care. He wants to do tax reform. He wants to get the infrastructure, which I'm sure is a priority of his. And so we're going to go back to work. And I'm sure Congress could do more than one thing at a time, but I just want to get it right rather than getting it passed.

KELLY: And as you mentioned, you've got four days next week - these two huge things looming on the horizon - trying to keep the federal government from running out of money and putting a health care plan back on the table - which prompts the question - why try this health care overhaul again now?

DONOVAN: I think, Mary Louise, that to get to some of the other items, we've been told that you have to do health care first. There's tax ramifications and any kind of repeal of the Affordable Care Act - eliminating the individual mandate and that employer mandate that's going to have tax implications, so you have to do health care before you get to tax reform.

And I also think that when you look at a congressional year, when you look at a Congress, you really have two years to get things done. The entire House will be up for re-election next year. A third of Senate will be up next year. And although I've only been there for two years now, I suspect more work gets done during the first year than the second year in a Congress. And so I think the president realizes this and wants to get these three huge items done. And we really don't have time to delay any of them.

KELLY: In just a few seconds, cynics might wonder whether part of getting health care back on the table is that the president's 100-day mark is coming up. Is this - is this, in some way, a push to get a big, visible win out on the table in advance of that?

DONOVAN: That may be a part of it. Every president in recent history's been measuring their accomplishments in their first hundred days. I think the president really wants to get this done with. He has three things to do in one calendar year. He knows how difficult that is. And so I think part of it may be the hundred-day review of his successes so far. But I really think you must get these three things done before we start to - we get these done in this calendar year.

KELLY: That's Congressman Dan Donovan. He represents part of New York City, and, Congressmen - in Congress. Congressman, thanks so much.

DONOVAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.