At last Saturday evening’s Greenbrier County Republican Club Trump Train dinner, featured speakers Rep. Evan Jenkins and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito told the Mountian Messenger that they are pleased with the progress made during President Donald Trump’s early tenure in the White House.
The two lawmakers were in town to serve as keynote speakers at the annual Republican Club fundraiser, this year called the Trump Train Dinner.
The Mountain Messenger spoke with the lawmakers at the State Fairgrounds before the event.
When asked if they “were on the Trump Train,” as the name of the event suggested, both Republicans said they were pleased with the president’s executive orders on immigration and also the laws that the Republican-dominated House and Senate chambers have passed since January.
Capito admitted she was uncomfortable with Trump’s “process,” but added she was “on the train that’s growing the economy.” West Virginia is “ground zero” for need for economic growth, population loss and opioid addiction, she said. She was especially pleased to see Trump’s support of an infrastructure bill.
“The president has committed to (signing into law) the infrastructure package,” she said, a bill providing funding for roads, bridges and rural broadband that, she said, “should” soon pass the Senate.
“Elections matter,” he said. Ticking off Republican-agenda items such as an “excellent Supreme Court justice, regulations being set aside so people can get back to work, border security, Second Amendment and constitutional rights being advocated for,” Jenkins said he was pleased with what Republicans have achieved so far.
“Trump is off to a good start in West Virginia, and our workers are benefitting,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins announced earlier this month that he will run for the U.S. Senate in 2018 against now-Senator Joe Manchin (D).
Jenkins and Capito spent much of the interview discussing health care, particularly the American Health Care Reform Act (HCRA), recently passed by the House of Delegates and on its way to the Senate.
Jenkins, who voted in favor of the HCRA, said he envisions a more “patient centered” health insurance system with more “choices, transparency in cost, price and quality,” and fewer “bureaucrats rationing health care.”
“The current system is broken,” he said; identifying the Affordable Care Act as being in a “death spiral.”
“Democrats and Republicans say it needs fixed,” he said.
Jenkins identified HCRA as a three-step process: one, the just-passed House bill that addresses taxing and spending; two, the utilization of Secretary of Health and Human Resources Tom Price to decide how to proceed with the replacement legislation; and three, additional legislation to allow insurance companies access to sell policies across state lines and more “drug company accountability.”
“All we have done is a start, not an end, in crafting the bill,” Jenkins said. “Nothing became law.”
He said that now that the HCRA passed the House, the Senate will draft their own version of the bill and then it will be negotiated before being handed off to the president to sign.
Capito has previously gone on the record about her concerns about the House-passed HCRA and her fear that it will leave low-income West Virginians without insurance coverage. But, she still wants to see an end to Obamacare.
“We have to do something,” Capito told the Mountain Messenger. “Aetna just pulled out (from the ACA),” leaving consumers with “fewer choices, or no choice.”
As for what she hopes to see the Senate do with the HCRA, Capito said, firstly, “pre-existing coverage has to part of (the coverage).”
She also said that she wants to see the continuation of children’s coverage on their parents’ plans until age 26, no lifetime caps, and a continuation tax credits for consumers who purchase insurance on the individual market. She also is skeptical of the House’s call to end Medicaid expansion after three years (a move that will give states the authority to create income guidelines for Medicaid qualifications.)
“Fifty thousand people in West Virginia are accessing substance abuse and mental health care,” said Capito. “We’ve got to protect that.”
Capito acknowledged that the Republican majority is slimmer in the Senate than in the House, and Republican senators will have to likely pass their version of the HCRA without the help of the left.
“Democrats are not going to participate” in the repeal of Obamacare, she said; but, she continued, bipartisan “conversations” are occurring in Washington, D.C.
“This is an opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to work together,” Jenkins said, referencing the bipartisan bill the House passed last week mandating that members of Congress will face health care repeal personally, just like their constituents. “There is work going on behind the scenes.”