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Failed House Vote Is 'A Great Opportunity' For Republicans, Former House Leader Says

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay leaves Capitol Hill, in September 2013, after a Texas appeals court tossed out his criminal conviction, saying there was insufficient evidence for a jury in 2010 to have found him guilty of illegally funneling money to Republican candidates.
Carolyn Kaster
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

After yesterday's pulled health care vote, many on the left and the right are seeing it as a failure for Republicans — but former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay says it's actually a blessing in disguise.

Tom DeLay served in Congress as representative for Texas's 22 nd district from 1984 to 2005, when he resigned in the midst of a money laundering scandal. In 1995, DeLay was elected House Majority Whip and in 2002, he was elected House Majority Leader.

DeLay gained a reputation for his ability to whip votes — he became known as "The Hammer" and still claims he never lost a vote in his time in Congress.

DeLay spoke to Michel Martin on Weekend All Things Consideredabout how Congressional Republicans can move forward after the failure of this vote.

Interview Highlights

On why the American Health Care Act failed

I did see it coming — I want to kind of put it in perspective, because I'm no guru, but the beginning of the end for this bill started in 2010.

The American people were demanding that Obamacare be repealed. They weren't demanding replacement — replacement came as a political move by the politicians to respond to the liberal media and to the Democrats, who were complaining that, "If you're going to repeal, what are you going to replace it with?"

This whole replacement idea is the reason it failed, because when they came and they wrote write a bill without checking with their members — which is always a bad idea — they wrote a bill that basically kept Obamacare in place.

On DeLay's health care philosophy

I don't believe health care is a right. It's a responsibility. The Democrats and Obama feel it's a right and the federal government has a right to be involved in your health insurance. So that's where I come from. This whole notion that the government can run a health insurance is doomed to failure in the first place.

The problem is you have some that have been elected in the House and the Senate that we call moderates that believe that the federal government has a constitutional role in health insurance. But the base of the party, as exhibited by the last four elections, wanted repeal of Obamacare because they basically understood that it was wrong and something needed to be done about it.

On how to unite Republicans in Congress

I invented a whole new process of whipping the vote, and I called it "grow the vote." It was much harder to do, but what I did for 11 years as the Majority Whip and never lost a vote, was I had an agenda, that agenda was developed with our members, and once they bought into the agenda, we would check with our members before we even attempted to write the bill or introduce it, so that we knew where they were.

So by the time the members got to the point of voting, they had ownership in the bill and they wanted to vote for it — I didn't have to break legs. That's the way the Democrats do it, and now it's the way the Republicans do it, if you looked at what happened over the last couple of weeks.

On whether President Trump is tearing the Republican party apart

I'm off of that. I don't think he'll tear the Republican party apart. ...He tried to work with Congress on a failed strategy and he accepted their strategy rather than demanding his strategy. I think he's learning. I think this was a good experience for them. To be honest, I think right now, after yesterday, it's a great opportunity to move forward on Obamacare.

Now we can back up and do the things that should have been done. The situation is we have people that it's hard for them to afford health insurance right now, and frankly, the health insurance market is totally shattered. And so what we need to do is rebuild that market — and the way the federal government can do that is get out of the way.

I would take Rand Paul's idea that I heard last night: Come to the Senate floor next week, and pass a bill that allows people with pre-existing conditions to join pools, associations, co-ops, to buy insurance, and show that you're going to remove the government and the regulatory structure away from it, so that the insurance companies can sell to people the kinds of policies they want.

And while you're doing all of that, the whole Obamacare implosion that's going on is going to raise the political pressure to repeal Obamacare. So the whole idea is those that want health insurance and can't afford it, you're helping them afford it, and at the same time, getting ready to just repeal Obamacare, and it's a place for them to go.

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Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Scott Greenstone