• WisPolitics


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

 9:07 AM 

Petri: Republicans unlikely to 'hold our breath' on health care law

PORTAGE -- U.S. Rep. Tom Petri says he believes there's a growing sense that congressional Republicans won't try to "hold our breath" in an effort to stifle the upcoming implementation of Obamacare.

As some in his party advocate shutting down the federal government to withhold funding for the Affordable Care Act, Petri, R-Fond du Lac, told WisPolitics.com yesterday following the first of 12 town meetings during the August recess that the issue is "a question of tactics, not of goals."

He said his experience during the government shutdown under then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the 1990s showed that as a practical matter, "you can't really shut the whole government down."

"You're basically highlighting (the president's) authority to make you look bad," Petri said.

He also suggested that similar moves backfired on Dems in Wisconsin during the height of the debate over Act 10, when Senate Dems left the state in early 2011 to hold up a vote on the collective bargaining bill in that chamber.

Petri fielded a series of questions about the Affordable Care Act at the Columbia County Law Enforcement Center, though they came from supporters of the bill.

One man, who identified himself as originally hailing from the Czech Republic, asked what was wrong with the legislation given the high costs of otherwise mundane medical procedures.

Petri responded that reimbursement rates for Medicare and Medicaid have led to rising costs from providers, and that while Obamacare was intended to fix some of those issues, "a lot of politics was involved." He said that included an expedited vote after Republican Scott Brown won a special election for the Massachusetts Senate seat long held by Ted Kennedy.

In response to another question, Petri acknowledged voting to repeal the law 40 times in the House -- drawing applause from other attendees. He said the ACA had caused particular disruption in Wisconsin, which had one of the top percentages of those covered by health insurance leading up to passage of the law.

"In Wisconsin, before we got into all this, we were either one, two or three among the 50 states in terms of people that had health insurance," Petri said.

Of the more than a dozen attendees at the Portage meeting, others asked Petri about government spending, simplifying the tax code and repealing ethanol requirements.

Petri said the nation's fiscal picture has stabilized in the short term, saying that tax increases, a slightly improved economy and the federal sequester -- "for better or worse" -- has reduced the deficit as a percentage of the overall economy.

"You don't hear much about that because the basic problem hasn’t been solved," Petri said. He said lawmakers should begin working on longer term challenges -- such a Social Security and Medicare -- to avoid affecting those closer to utilizing those programs.

"It can be done if you can get people to calm down, if you can agree on the projections and the numbers," Petri said.

Petri also said the ethanol standard "needs to be modernized or reformed," but that lawmakers "need to be sensitive to try to phase it out in a responsible manner."

Petri also told WisPolitics.com he hasn't started thinking about the 2014 election.

"We're just doing our job," Petri said of the town hall meetings, adding, "I can't even take out nomination papers yet."

Petri is set to continue the town meetings today in Fredonia and Howards Grove.


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