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Dr. Phil Roe (R-TN) is the Co-Chair of the GOP Doctors Caucus in the House of Representatives. In an interview on Friday, he described the strategy behind the vote to defund Obamacare, the negative effects that Obamacare is having across the nation, and the status of the defunding coalition in the House and Senate. A second article will discuss Roe's new bill, HR 3121, that is a market based alternative to Obamacare.
Dr. Roe says that he's introduced the term 'herd immunity' several times with House leadership, in an attempt to get the coalition to stay together: "In medicine, when discussing infectious disease, if everyone in the herd is immunized, nobody gets sick. When individuals go without, they can get sick and spread disease among the herd. Republicans can learn from this - when we stick together, we're stronger. The American people want leadership from somebody, and they haven't been getting it." Roe was adamant that this vote was good for the nation, and that America was looking to House Republicans to show real leadership on the issue.
Roe believes that every Republican on the Hill is dedicated to getting rid of Obamacare, but they may differ on the strategy to achieve this goal. When asked about Senator Cruz's statements late last week and whether they hindered the momentum to defund, Roe said, "I haven't spoken with him since the report, but I think he's probably had a re-think. We have sent the ball over to their court now. The House has done its job. I won't give us kudos though, because there's a lot of work to do. Next week's votes are gonna be a lot tougher", once they know what bill is returned to them after a vote in the Senate.
However, Roe is dedicated to this effort, citing several examples of clinics that are cutting jobs, contrary to expectations, due to Obamacare. "In my state, one large clinic is laying off 1,000 people and cutting its budget by $250 million. Cleveland Clinic recently announced that it is cutting 3,000 workers. And Lee County, Virginia, just over the state line from my district, is closing its county hospital due to Obamacare - and they'll never get another hospital again."
Some pundits on the Right have said that the defunding effort is bad strategy, stating that there's no end game and no pathway to success, as it appears unlikely that the bill will emerge intact from the Democrat-controlled Senate. "I don't disagree with that," said Roe, "but that's the hand we've been dealt. A delay might be better. But I absolutely believe that this is good for the country." Roe expressed strong support for an all-of-the-above strategy to attack Obamacare on every front possible, under the belief that allowing it to be implemented as-is will be disastrous.
Roe was quick to dismiss worries that the Republicans would get blamed for a government shutdown. "I wasn't elected to close the government down - our job is to run the government." He blamed Democrats for not passing a budget in his 5 years in Congress, reminding us that "the CR [continuing resolution] is a terrible way to run the government." Roe went back to 1978 and found that there had been 17 previous government shutdowns - "six under Reagan! I didn't even know there were any!" - and found that in each instance, there were sufficient appropriations bills passed that the government really wasn't shut down. But he's preparing for a fight this time. "I am absolutely adamant that we get our soldiers paid and that we do our job." Again, he reminds us, it's a matter of the GOP sticking together and effectively communicating who is to blame for any shutdown. After all, the House voted to fund the entire government, excluding Obamacare. Any refusal to pass the bill in the Senate will be the fault of Democratic leadership in that chamber.