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GOP Lawmaker On The Defeat Of Health Plan


Now to a Republican congressman who supported the health care bill - Tom Reed. He represents the 23rd district in the Finger Lakes District of New York. Mr. Reed, thanks for being with us.

TOM REED: Well, thank you for having me on, Scott.

SIMON: You had a town hall meeting in Ithaca a couple of weeks ago filled with people who opposed this health care replacement. But I want to ask you about a man named Thomas Taylor, who got up to tell you - and I'm going to quote from our local station there, WRVO. He said to you, quote, "you were elected on things you championed, you do not lose elections by keeping your promises, you lose elections by breaking your promises." Did Republicans break their promise to Thomas Taylor?

REED: Well, we're not done yet. But obviously this was a setback, and this is something we're going to have to take into consideration as we go forward because the problem's not going away, Scott. And we're going to have to deal with it. It's just going to be a little bit further down the road.

SIMON: Republicans asked for the chance to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, right? I mean, what is there about being in charge of the government that your party doesn't understand?

REED: Well, I think there's a lot in the party that are striving for perfect over the good, and that can be very problematic. I subscribe to the 80 percent rule. If I can get 80 percent of success, I'm going to move the ball down the field because the American people are the ones that we're here to serve. And when you see what's happening with the premiums, when you see the lack of choice, now that's a real problem that's not going away. So I'm hoping members this weekend will look - and members on both sides because I see this as an opportunity also for us as governing elected officials - I'm one of those individuals - on both sides of the aisle will say, you know what? Enough of the partisan rhetoric. It's about time we put the American people first. And I see an opportunity for the rise of that governing member of Congress, and that's the opportunity I'm going to push.

SIMON: Mr. Reed, I hope you won't mind me personalizing this a bit, but you mentioned rising health care costs. You were elected in 2010, and your ceremony to be sworn in had to be delayed for a few days because you suffered a pulmonary embolism. Thankfully you are just fine now. But after that, can you understand why millions of Americans, including a lot who showed up to your town halls, worried that this bill would have taken away their health care coverage?

REED: Oh, absolutely. I totally empathize, and that's why we do the town halls, to listen to the folks. And as I assured them and looked them in the eye, I'm committed to making sure that health care is there for them just as it was there for me. As Americans, we owe that to each other, and that's why this problem is not going to go away. And that's why I co-chair the Problem Solvers Caucus, for example, on the Republican side, with Josh Gottheimer on the Democratic side. There are - is a growing sense - a silent majority in Congress that want to get things done for the American people, and we're going to be a loud voice for that going forward.

SIMON: Polls say, I believe, something like only 18 percent of the American people thought the Republican health care replacement was a good idea. What about getting together with Democrats to come up with something both parties can support? Or is that a pipe dream?

REED: Now, you know, some people say that's a pipe dream that I am committed. That's why I co-chair the Problem Solvers Caucus with 20 Democrats on the other side. These are serious Democrats that are willing to buck the leadership, just as we on the 20 on the Republican side are willing to do that, in order to solve these problems for America. I think that's the opportunity that we're going to see with this administration going forward because we can't do nothing. That's not acceptable. Status quo's not acceptable. I'm going to put my voice in there to say enough is enough. Let's start leading.

SIMON: Well, what bit of Republican orthodoxy would you be willing to give up to get a bipartisan agreement?

REED: Well, you know, as we talked about, even the essential health benefits or setting some general standards at the federal level. I'm open to that conversation, and that was a great concern I had towards the end of this negotiation, that, you know, things like mental health, substance abuse, these are things that we should be able to easily come together and say this is something we're proud to have in our health care because it's helping millions of Americans across the nation.

SIMON: What about mandates?

REED: You know, obviously, when you put more mandates, you lose the flexibility. But I'll tell you, talking to members on the other side of the aisle, they understand the opportunity that flexibility represents. That is something I think they're willing to compromise on, too, to give the local government, state governments, more control for their populations.

SIMON: Republican Congressman Tom Reed of New York State. Thanks so much for being with us, Mr. Reed.

REED: Thank you, Scott. I really appreciate it.

SIMON: And tomorrow on Weekend Edition Sunday, whether compounding pharmacies are any safer since one caused a deadly meningitis outbreak in 2012. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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