Yesterday, President Obama repeated his claim that he would be happy to go over ObamaCare and ways to cut spending with House Republicans.
You’re going to have to forgive me if I am skeptical that will happen. You see, I wanted to come to Washington because, as a physician, I had some commonsense ideas to increase access and lower the cost of health care in this country. I was willing to work with anyone, Republican or Democrat, to address the health care problems in this country. Unfortunately, when the president pushed through his health care law, the only thing bipartisan about his bill was the opposition.
Historically, major pieces of legislation that fundamentally altered our country all had bipartisan support. The Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act and Social Security Act all passed with support on both sides of the aisle. Still, the Democrat-led Congress of 2009 refused to allow House Republicans to introduce amendments during the health care debate, despite the fact we correctly predicted several of the problems we’ve encountered as a result of the president’s health care law.
In July 2009, the president said he’d be happy to go over the bill line-by-line at a public rally in Virginia. I wrote him and asked to go over it with him. Despite then-White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ public statement at a news briefing that he would ‘forward the request to scheduling to get it done,’ I didn’t hear back from the White House about scheduling this meeting, but I wasn’t going to give up.
In September 2009, I was joined by Representatives Price, Scalise, Cassidy and Chaffetz when I reiterated my request to meet after the president said in his speech to Congress, “If you come to me with a serious set of proposals, I will be there to listen. My door is always open.” And again, nothing from the White House.
In December 2009, I reiterated my request in a letter, but did not hear back.
In January 2010, at a meeting with the House Republican Conference, the president was asked by Rep. Chaffetz about our request to meet, but again he declined to take us up on our offer. Still, I was committed to reaching out to the president in a bipartisan way.
In June 2011, I personally spoke with the president after a meeting with the House Republican Conference and asked him to meet with the GOP Doctors Caucus to discuss our concerns with his law. The president agreed to meet then, but when I followed up, he and his staff did not respond to my requests.
After declining five good-faith offers to sit down and discuss our differences, it’s hard for me to believe that the president’s offer is anything more than a smokescreen designed to make him appear reasonable while refusing to negotiate on anything. President Obama points fingers at House Republicans and says we are not doing our job, but it seems to me he’s the one not willing to cross party lines to do what’s best for this country.
As Speaker Boehner said, the president expects us to surrender this fight unconditionally, but that’s not how our government works. For years, presidents have met with party leaders across the aisle to reconcile differences through negotiating on spending bills. That’s why the House has the purse strings. When you have disagreements within your family, does it get better by simply ignoring the people who have things to say you might not like to hear? No, it does not. It only gets better after a conversation, and all we’re asking the president to do is talk.
The American people cannot afford more empty rhetoric. We’re very fortunate to live in a country where we have the opportunity to elect leaders to Washington who can negotiate on our behalf. My constituents didn’t send me to Washington to shut down the government; they sent me to Washington to fight for conservative principles, to cut spending, and to lower taxes. They also reelected me to push back against a deeply flawed law the American people do not want. Negotiating with Congress may be inconvenient for the president, but it’s part of his job. It’s time we sit down, talk about these differences and find a path forward. I stand ready to work with the president.
Feel free to contact my office if we can be of assistance to you or your family. Our contact information can be found on our website, www.roe.house.gov.