Ranking Democrat Neal urges Republicans to reform Obamacare, tax code
January 15, 2017 | By Heather Forsgren Weaver | HeatherForsgrenWeaver@gmail.com
The ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, at a National Press Club Newsmaker, urged Republicans to abandon their years-long quest to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act -- also known as Obamacare -- and instead work with Democrats to fix it.
"It is short-sighted to start anew," Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts said Thursday, Jan. 12, at the NPC. "They need to work with us to improve upon what we already have."
Neal declined to offer specific critiques of the repeal-and-replace initiative, noting that "in the confusion they're embracing, I don't think we should help them out."
The Republicans have had seven years to come up with a better plan and have yet to do so, Neal said. "Their plan has not caught up with their rhetoric," he said.
Neal repeated the challenge made by President Barack Obama during his farewell address on Jan. 10.
“Anything less than what we have now in terms of coverage, cost controls, consumer protection is a step backwards,” Neal said.
While some Republicans have suggested that Congress needs to reform the tax system, Neal believes tax-reform efforts must wait until Obamacare reform is complete, but he agreed that the system needs to be reformed.
“The last time Congress reformed the tax system, Ronald Reagan was president, Tip O'Neill, D- Washington, was speaker and (former Illinois Democratic Rep.) Dan Rostenkowski was chairman of the [House] Ways and Means Committee and nobody had heard of the Internet,” Neal said. “I am hopeful that in a global economy that we can meet the challenge of changing the American tax code. It is stuck in the '80s. It is rotary phone in a smartphone world.”
Any tax-reform proposal needs to be paid for, Neal said, noting that was the standard that Republicans held both former President Bill Clinton and Obama to. "Do deficits only count when a Democrat is president?" he asked rhetorically.