Tags: Healthcare Reform | Immigration | House | GOP | Luke Messer | policy | action

New House GOP Policy Chair Messer Prioritizes Action on Obamacare, Immigration

By Tuesday, 09 December 2014 07:18 PM Current | Bio | Archive

As Congress prepares to adjourn in the twilight days of the 113th Congress and prepare for the 114th to convene in January, just-elected House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Luke Messer  of Indiana spelled out the course of action he wants his colleagues to take on "red meat" issues such as Obamacare and immigration.

Last month, Messer, one-time Capitol Hill staffer and Indiana state legislator, pulled off a rare feat by joining the leadership team of his party weeks after winning his second term in the House. In capturing the policy chair by a vote of the House GOP Conference, Messer defeated two colleagues after two ballots.

For much of its history, the Policy Committee has been a center for gathering information and dealing with groups outside Congress in the crafting of policy. Messer wants to continue this service of the committee, but also wants to make it a body that takes the lead in issues and causes in the long term.

"We have a host of issues that have been foisted on the table by the administration, such as immigration, spending, transportation, and, of course, what to do about Obamacare," he told us, "but we also have to deal with a broader agenda: institutional reforms, the reality of shrinking paychecks, and the restoration of opportunity for Americans."

In dealing with the issues at hand, the Hoosier lawmaker said without hesitation "any immigration agenda of ours starts with border security. It will be very hard to move on to any other related issue such as what to do about visas unless we start with securing the border. That’s what the American people want."

There has been much talk in recent weeks of the House sending to President Barack Obama’s desk an appropriations measure with no funding for the Department of Homeland Security (which would implement much of his executive action on illegal immigration) and risk a government shutdown if he vetoes it.

"There’s much debate in the [Republican] Conference as to how far we should go on this," said Messer, "but there’s little appetite for another shutdown such as the one we had last year."

The likely course for Republican lawmakers, he added, is to pass funding legislation that diminishes the agencies dealing with the Obama executive orders and, in his words, "keep them on short leash."

"You have to remember that an executive order is not seared in history," said Messer, "and we have other venues with which to pursue remedies, such as the courts."

The Hoosier lawmaker left little doubt that the Republican-controlled House would continue strong action on Obamacare. Noting that there are a lot of Republican physicians in the House, he told us that "we’re talking with the ‘Docs Caucus’ and will soon have a designated spokesperson on the Policy Committee to spell out and debate the positive Republican alternative to Obamacare."

Messer is "excited we [Republicans] now have the Senate" because, he feels, "so much of the positive legislation we passed in the House that [Senate Democratic Leader] Harry Reid never permitted a vote in the Senate on will now get that vote and go the President’s desk. And he will have to veto them and explain why."

One of the first such proposals the House could pass in early January is the bill of House Energy Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R.-Mich, which uses the president’s own words and puts into law that if an American is satisfied with his or her health insurance, he or she can keep it. Thirty-nine Democrats in the House voted with every Republican to pass the Upton bill last summer but it was stopped cold in the Senate.

"If we keep it narrow in scope and don’t load it up like a Christmas tree with non-related stuff, it will be very hard to vote against," he added.

Although there are several Republican health care alternatives and no final version yet, Messer did feel certain that the eventual GOP plan would keep the spirit of Obamacare’s rule that one cannot be denied health care because of a pre-existing condition. However, in order to deal with the resulting costs, this portion of the law could be amended, he said, "to create high-risk pools and allow the free market guys to come up with the right policies. The fault with Obamacare is it is focused too much on government. "

Messer sees his team working on measures on fresh issues that are rarely discussed. He expressed interest, for example, in Florida Rep. John Mica’s recent calls for selling to the private sector government assets and properties that aren’t being used. He recalled how former GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana discovered many state vehicles were not being used and sold them off. (White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told Newsmax earlier this month that the administration "would certainly take a look at" Mica’s plan).

Luke Messer raised eyebrows by winning a key position among his fellow House Republicans as a very junior lawmaker. What he does with that position is likely to be an important factor in how much the House GOP gains ground and public support in what is likely to be a turbulent two years with a Democratic president.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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As Congress prepares to adjourn in the twilight days of the 113th Congress and prepare for the 114th to convene in January, just-elected House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Luke Messer of Indiana spelled out the course of action he wants his colleagues to take on ...
House, GOP, Luke Messer, policy, action
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2014-18-09
Tuesday, 09 December 2014 07:18 PM
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