In a shift that baffled even Republicans, President Trump vowed to completely reverse the Affordable Care Act. He said Wednesday that the administration won’t fight a Texas judge’s decision that the law is unconstitutional, once again making the law a center of fierce legal and political battles.
Democrats have supported the ACA since its inception, and now have introduced a bill to strengthen it.
Two of them speak to Press Play about health care, Russia, and the possibility of Democratic harmony in the final years of Trump’s first term.
Trump’s decision to terminate the ACA is ‘asinine’
Local Democratic Congress members in neighboring districts in Orange County, Katie Porter of Irvine and Harley Rouda of Laguna Beach, say they’ll do what they can to strengthen the ACA.
“It is an incredibly important issue to all Americans, when you look at the impact that the ACA has had in a positive way on so many families,” says Rouda. “And the suggestion by the Trump administration that they want to terminate the ACA, and put tens of millions of Americans out on the street without medical insurance is asinine. And not even being able to provide some alternative plan in place shows you how removed this presidency and his administration is from addressing the true needs of working families across America.”
Porter agrees that defending the ACA is important, and she’s also signed onto the Medicare For All bill. “I think the problems that we see with health care are so serious, and so enduring, and have continued to get more and more challenging to solve, that I want to have a wide-ranging discussion over the next two years about what are the right tools that we need to do to improve health care,” she says.
Porter says some of her constituents support Medicare For All, others do not, and many have unanswered questions. “My job is to help give the information, so that we can begin to have this national conversation about how we can best maintain and expand consumer choice in health care and patient quality.”
Should Democrats shift their focus away from Russia?
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has suggested that Democrats should move away from the Russia investigation, and focus on their legislative agenda.
But Rouda is hesitant to move on. “Let’s be very clear that the Mueller report has not been released. It’s a four-page letter from a political appointee who auditioned for the job that has been put out. We haven't seen the Mueller report. But what we do know is that the Russians meddled in our election. They hacked computers. There has been 37 indictments. There has been numerous convictions. And to suggest by any stretch of the imagination that this was a witch hunt or a waste of taxpayers’ dollars would suggest that you don't care about protecting the basic elements of our democracy, which is free elections and free from foreign influence.”
Rouda says that meanwhile, he is focused on other issues that his constituents care about: health care, jobs, affordable housing, the environment.
Porter says her priorities in Congress have not changed because of the Mueller report and Attorney General Barr’s letter saying there was no Russian collusion.
She says she ran on protecting consumers with a strong economy; making sure health care is affordable, available, and high quality; protecting the environment; and preventing gun violence prevention. “To the extent that Donald Trump and his administration have been counter to those goals, I have been critical of the administration. But my focus is very, very much been on substantive policy outcomes.”
Can moderate and progressive wings work together?
Rouda represents the centrist wing of the Democratic party. He says he can definitely work with progressives: “While we often agree on certain ideas, how we get there and when we get there is often what we're debating. And I'll work with anybody across the aisle or in my own party that addresses issues that are important to our communities in our country in a bipartisan fashion.”
Porter is part of the progressive caucus. She says Congress members who represent Orange County largely agree on the region’s priorities. “We know that we live in one of the most beautiful, but also environmentally sensitive areas. So tackling climate change, working on continuing to grow our green energy jobs… reducing the price of prescription drugs, making sure we're protecting those with preexisting conditions, and creating investment in infrastructure that will allow Orange County to continue to grow its economy in the future,” she says.
--Written by Amy Ta, produced by Caitlin Plummer