Thursday, September 7, 2017

Alexander for DACA, Still Wants to "Repair" Affordable Care Act

In interview with MSNBC, Tennessee's senior GOP Senator also expresses himself on colleague Corker's relationship with Trump.

Posted By on Thu, Sep 7, 2017 at 10:54 AM



click to enlarge MSNBC's Chuck Todd (l) with Senator Alexander
  • MSNBC's Chuck Todd (l) with Senator Alexander


NBC News political director Chuck Todd interviewed Tennessee’s senior Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, on the “Meet the Press” daily installment on MSNBC on Wednesday, and covered several subjects, including the Affordable Care Act (which Alexander concedes is the law of the land but still wants to “repair;” DACA, which Alexander supports in principle; and the peculiarities of Donald Trump.

Below, courtesy of NBC, is a synopsis of some of the exchanges between Todd and Alexander, followed by the complete transcript of the interview:

ON THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT ("OBAMACARE"):

TODD: What have you learned now through all this? You made the – you guys made the six month effort to- repeal a major piece of this legislation. It expires at the end of the month. I assume— your ability to change the law with 50 votes, that you guys are going to let that expire?

ALEXANDER: Well, Senator McConnell says it's still on the table.
TODD: But on September 30th –

ALEXANDER: But it's a longshot. September 30th, it – that opportunity's gone.
TODD: Are you comfortable with that?

ALEXANDER: I don't like it. I voted innumerable times to change it. I mean, the fundamental problem was that too many decisions are made in Washington and it increased the cost of insurance. We wanted to move decisions back to the states, increase the number of choices, lower the costs. And that was the difference of opinion we've had for seven years of a political stalemate.



ON SEN. BOB CORKER’S STATEMENT ON TRUMP:

TODD: You just said there's no U.S. senator the president speaks with more than Bob Corker –

ALEXANDER: Yeah.

TODD: - then what does that statement say?

ALEXANDER: To me it's probably advice the president would be well-advised to listen to. My suggestion was the president and Corker should go play another round of golf and talk to each other.



ON DACA:

ALEXANDER: This gives President Trump an opportunity to do for immigration what President Nixon did for China.

TODD: How do you sell this in Tennessee? How do you sell DACA in Tennessee, the idea of protecting these folks who came over here, you know, as children? How do you sell that and say, "You know what, we're going to give them amnesty essentially, a form of amnesty" - and I know everybody defines amnesty in a different way, but how do you sell this in Tennessee?

ALEXANDER: What you’ve got to say: "Their parents brought them here." And what we're got to say is, "You grew up here. This is the only country you know." We usually don't visit the sins of the parents on the children. So, they're law-abiding. If they graduate from high school, if they - if they're enrolled in college or the military, we'll give them a status here. I - that makes a lot of sense to me. I voted for that exact formula in 2013. I was reelected in 2014.



THE FULL TRANSCRIPT:

CHUCK TODD: Let me start with a simple broad question. Is Obamacare the law of the land in perpetuity?

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER: It's the law of the land until it's changed. And we have to change it because we're talking about 18 million Americans in this individual market. They don't get their insurance from the government. They don't get it on the job. And their premiums are going up. And in some cases, if we don't act, they may not be able to buy insurance next year. So we have to change it.

TODD: When you say - it was always interesting to me - you, throughout this process, have tried not to use the word "repeal." You were somebody that kept trying to use the word "repair" when it came to Obamacare.

ALEXANDER: Yeah.

TODD: Why?

ALEXANDER: Well, first, it's not accurate, because we need 60 votes to repeal. And we didn't even get 51. So we were using a process that was limited. So, the truth, we were repealing major parts of Obamacare, that was the Republican effort, and replacing it with major parts. So, it wasn't accurate to say it's repealing the whole thing.

TODD: So that's why you always wanted to use the word "repair"?

ALEXANDER: Yeah.

TODD: But it also seemed to me like an outreach effort, that that was – if you said "repair," Democrats were more likely to listen to ya than if you said "repeal."

ALEXANDER: That's probably true. I mean, I was a governor. So, you know, my job as governor and the president's job, really, is to persuade at least half the people we're right. And that means some Democrats and Independents. So, I'm – I'm always working to try to get a result. In the Senate, that means 60 votes. In the country, that means at least half the people. And in the Republican Party or among the conservative base, maybe we've got a third. So, I'm always reaching out.

TODD: What have you learned now through all this? You made the – you guys made the six month effort to- repeal a major piece of this legislation. It expires at the end of the month. I assume— your ability to change the law with 50 votes, that you guys are gonna let that expire?

ALEXANDER: Well, Senator McConnell says it's still on the table.

TODD: But on September 30th –

ALEXANDER: But it's a longshot. September 30th, it – that opportunity's gone.

TODD: Are you comfortable with that?

ALEXANDER: I don't like it. I voted innumerable times to change it. I mean, the fundamental problem was that too many decisions are made in Washington and it increased the cost of insurance. We wanted to move decisions back to the states, increase the number of choices, lower the costs. And that was the difference of opinion we've had for seven years of a political stalemate.

TODD: So on October 1st, what does this look like?

ALEXANDER: Well, if we're fortunate between now and the end of the month, we'll have a small bipartisan agreement that will lower premiums in 2018 or at least keep them from going up much - and then lower them more in 2019 in this very small part of the insurance market. What people don't realize is, that the whole so-called "Obamacare debate" is mostly about 6% of the people with insurance. Nearly 300 million of us have health insurance. We're arguing about the people who don't have, who have individual insurance.

TODD: Let me move onto the summer of attacks that President Trump went after Mitch McConnell, other Republicans. What kind of – what kind of repercussions is that, could that lead to this month? Is that just, you know - how bruised are the feelings around here?

ALEXANDER: Oh, the people - you know, Senator McConnell's been here a while. He and the president met this week. I think they get along fine. McConnell's very professional. He knows he's got a job to do. He's got an institution to make work. And the president is, you know - he just does things in a different way. He doesn't do things the way I do it or say the things that I would say, but he was elected to the people so my job is to work with him and when I can - as I hope to do on this healthcare this month - we'll try to make the country better.

TODD: I am curious of what your reaction was when your Tennessee colleague Bob Corker said this to the president. "The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability or some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful."

ALEXANDER: I’m not very surprised by that because Senator Corker always says what he thinks, even about me or President Trump. What most people don't know is there's not a single Republican senator who President Trump talks with more than Bob Corker.

TODD: That’s interesting.

ALEXANDER: I mean, they talk a lot. The president will call him for advice.

TODD: What does that mean to you then? If he's saying that, if Bob Corker – you just said there's no U.S. senator the president speaks with more than Bob Corker –

ALEXANDER: Yeah.

TODD: - then what does that statement say?

ALEXANDER: To me it's probably advice the president would be well-advised to listen to. My suggestion was the president and Corker should go play another round of golf and talk to each other.

TODD: Let ask you about DACA. Where are you on it? Do you think this is something - if this comes on the floor of the United States Senate - first of all, do you think it should be standalone? Or would you support having it linked to other bills if necessary?

ALEXANDER: Here's what I think. I think after we finish tax reform - the president said six months - I think this gives President Trump an opportunity to do for immigration what President Nixon did for China. I mean, President Trump might be the only president who could take this very contentious issue and say to the American people, "Okay, I've got a proposal. Let's secure the borders. Let's develop a legal immigration system. And let's take care of the problems of people without status, like the children who came here with their parents. I don't know any other president who could cause that to happen. If he'd make a proposal like that, I would work with him on it. I voted for something much like that in 2013. Sixty-eight senators did. So, I hope he does that. I hope - I think it's a chance for him to provide extraordinary leadership of which he'd be very proud when it was over.

TODD: How do you sell this in Tennessee? How do you sell DACA in Tennessee, the idea of protecting these folks who came over here, you know, as children? How do you sell that and say, "You know what, we're gonna give them amnesty essentially, a form of amnesty" - and I know everybody defines amnesty in a different way, but how do you sell this in Tennessee?

ALEXANDER: What you’ve got to say: "Their parents brought them here." And what we're gonna say is, "You grew up here. This is the only country you know." We usually don't visit the sins of the parents on the children. So, they're law-abiding. If they graduate from high school, if they - if they're enrolled in college or the military, we'll give them a status here. I - that makes a lot of sense to me. I voted for that exact formula in 2013. I was reelected in 2014.


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