By Jim Meyers and John Bachman
Rep. Jeb Hensarling tells Newsmax that the Supreme Court's ruling on the expansion of Medicaid has made Obamacare "ridiculously unaffordable," and it is "the will of the people" to repeal and replace the healthcare-reform law.
The Texas lawmaker, chairman of the House Republican Conference, also says President Obama's proposal to raise taxes on wealthier Americans is an exercise in "the politics of diversion" to distract voters from focusing on the lagging economy.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV on Wednesday, Hensarling -- who first was elected in 2002 -- discusses the significance of the House vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
"Number one, this is one of the seminal issues of our time," he says. "Those who have worked for government-controlled healthcare have been working on it for decades. Those of us who want patient-centered healthcare have worked on this for two years. It's a little unreasonable to think that somehow we're going to go away.
"Second, this is a different Obamacare now that the Supreme Court has ruled. Whether we like it or not, the individual mandate is now legally judged to be tax. A lot of different folks who gave us Obamacare said they would never, never support a tax increase on those who make less than $200,000. According to the Supreme Court, Obamacare does just that. So it's important to revote this thing again.
"Next, the forced Medicaid expansion was ruled unconstitutional. And that takes a bill that we can't afford and makes it even more unaffordable, because in all the states that choose not to do the Medicaid expansion, all those people are going to end up on Obamacare.
"Last but not least, I believe that it's the will of the people in America [to repeal Obamacare]. I know it's certainly the will of the majority of people in the 5th Congressional district of Texas that I represent. It's not going to be the last time that we vote on this because the people's will must be done."
A number of governors, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, have said their states will not participate in the Medicaid expansion called for in the healthcare reform act.
Elaborating on the problems resulting from the Medicaid expansion, Hensarling says: "I think the whole law was unaffordable to begin with. Now it has gone from greatly unaffordable to ridiculously unaffordable. I do believe a number of states will decide not to do the Medicaid expansion.
"What I know is that many governors have said that these Medicaid expansions are causing them to cut their education budgets, to cut their public-safety budgets, to cut their highway budgets. Many of the states are hemorrhaging from these forced expansions of Medicaid, which is a problem I'm not even sure the original authors of the program would recognize.
"It's gone way beyond simply helping indigent people get healthcare, and it's doing it in a very clumsy, inefficient government manner. That's another reason why we have to have this vote, to help focus people's attention that under President Obama we've racked up more national debt in the last three and a half years than the previous 200. At some point you've got to stop spending money you don't have."
If the GOP gains control of Congress and the White House in November, how long will it take until there is a new healthcare bill that all Republicans can agree on to replace Obamacare, Hensarling was asked.
"We don't want to repeat the mistakes of the past and rush through a 2,000-plus-page bill behind closed doors in the dead of night," he responds.
"So step No. 1 is to go back, listen to the American people and engage in common-sense steps that we know can make healthcare more affordable, more portable and retain its high quality."
One Republican focus would be on medical-liability reform, Hensarling says.
"You speak to any doctor and they say a quarter to a third of all the medicine they dispense is defensive medicine, based upon the fear of a lawsuit. There is great savings there."
Also, Americans should be able to shop for healthcare insurance across state lines, according to Hensarling.
"Third, we need to be incentivizing wellness and success, not just this fee-for-service system that actually [encourages] doctors to make up in quantity and volume what they lose out with government price control.
"I have no doubt, after listening to the American people, we can have a very comprehensive patient-centered healthcare that makes it affordable, portable, of high quality and ensures that no one debilitating illness wipes out a lifetime of saving."
Hensarling addresses President Obama's proposal to allow the Bush-era tax cuts to expire for Americans earning more than $250,000 a year:
"I don't know what's news about the president trying to increase taxes," he tells Newsmax.
"He's been trying to do this from day one. How he thinks that raising anybody's taxes in this economy is going to help economic growth is beyond me.
"You add up all the revenue from his tax plan, it's less than 2 percent of his spending agenda. It's about 8 percent of the new $10 trillion of additional debt that he is going to be adding to the national debt.
"This kind of policy doesn't pass an eighth-grade economics exam. I don't think the American people ultimately believe that taxing anybody in this economy is going to help jobs and growth. What this really is, is the politics of diversion, trying to put one American against another. It's about the politics of envy.
"If you were Barack Obama and you were presiding over the worst economy since the Great Depression and it was your policies, your tax policy, your spending policy, your red-tape policy that were driving all of this, wouldn't you want to change the subject? It's a classic political tactic - try to divide Americans and change the subject."
As for Obama's attacks on Mitt Romney over his wealth and business experience, Hensarling says: "This is an administration that wants to vilify success, an administration that attacks the free-enterprise system. We have seen it before.
"They have to change the subject because we've now had 41 straight months of 8-percent-plus unemployment, the worst employment record since the Great Depression. The bottom line is, if Barack Obama wasn't there, millions more Americans would have paychecks instead of welfare checks, and the average American family would have several more thousand dollars of disposable income in their pocket."
Hensarling last year served on a bipartisan committee that sought strategies for reducing the deficit and overhauling the tax system.
On tax reform, he tells Newsmax: "Ultimately Republicans want to pass a fair, flatter, simpler, more competitive tax code. We put it into our budget, a two-tiered flat tax system at 10 and 25 percent, bringing down the corporate rate. We have the single highest corporate tax rate in the world, which helps shift jobs overseas and makes us uncompetitive.
"We want to clear out all the loopholes, all the exclusions, broaden the base and lower the rates. That will help ignite economic growth, and come November, if we are able to prevail, you will see that.
"You will also see, after we take care of voting to repeal the president's unaffordable, government-controlled healthcare system, we will vote to stop the president's tax increases and lay down the foundation in the next Congress to bring about a fair, flatter, simpler, more competitive tax code to ignite economic growth and job creation."