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GOP Rep. Says Delaying Health Reform Is a ‘Fairness Issue’

September 30, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., says House Republicans are doing their duty to "soften the blow" of health care reform by insisting that a federal spending bill include a provision on the Affordable Care Act. Gwen Ifill talked to Blackburn from Capitol Hill before votes began in the House about the fight over the budget.
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GWEN IFILL: Now for a viewpoint from Capitol Hill, we are joined by Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.

Welcome.

You just heard Dan Pfeiffer say the president is not flexible on this. And in light of the veto threat the White House has already put out there, do you see any way of getting past a government shutdown tonight?

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN, R-Tenn.: We certainly hope that Harry Reid and the president both are going to want to work with us on this, Judy.

You know, we have been at this for quite a while. We know that the American people want the government to stay open. We know that they do not like Obamacare and that they want to see some changes made. And we have offered different ways to go about this.

We have all sorts of bills that would deal with repositioning and reworking different sections of us — of the bill. We’re simply inviting once again Harry Reid and the president to work with us on this, so that we keep the government open and we address the concerns that the American people have about Obamacare and the impact that it’s having on jobs.

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Dan just mentioned, you know, jobs and the economy. And you can talk to any number of businesses. I have a list of about 311 right now. And you can see where it’s having an impact. You can look at the number of waivers that with have been given, 1,200, and the first being the president and his staff and Senate and House leadership waiving them out of the law when they were finishing writing the law after it had been passed.

All of this is not fair. It is time to address this as fairness. It is time for them to work with us to keep the government open and to make certain that we do the right thing for the American people. That’s what we’re committed to.

GWEN IFILL: Marsha Blackburn, as I’m sure you’re aware, the White House has used terms like extortion and blackmail and hostage taking in recent weeks to describe what House Republicans are doing.

Are they right? Is this a backdoor way for you, using the budget, using next month perhaps the debt ceiling debate, to kill the health care bill?

MARSHA BLACKBURN: Judy, I have to tell you, I find such language to be very sad and very inappropriate for the issues and the severity of the issues that are facing our country.

I am every single day talking with and working with people in my district who are seeing their health care insurance costs go up five times, 105 percent, 300 percent, that are getting pay cuts, that are losing 40-hour workweeks, that are having to work two and three jobs.

This is the very real impact of this law. And what we are seeking to do is to soften that blow to the American people, keep the federal government open, soften the blow to the American people, help work through these issues, so that health reform is done in a way that it preserves access to affordable health care for all America, and people are not disenfranchised.

GWEN IFILL: As you stand there tonight, is this an intraparty fight, Republicans fighting Republicans, because you don’t all agree that this is the fight to pick, or is it a fight with the Democrats and the White House?

MARSHA BLACKBURN: It is very clearly a fight with the Democrats and the White House.

And we are sending back over to them another proposal saying, please, join us, work with us. The individual mandate, which needs to be addressed, is a fairness issue. The president has given 19 delays, many of those to people that are friendly to him and the administration. Let’s do this for the American people.

The second thing is addressing the subsidy issue. And to correct Mr. Pfeiffer, just so that he is aware, the way the severability clauses are written in the law, Judy , you cannot provide a subsidy for individuals into the Obamacare exchange. An employer cannot do that.

So what we are doing is taking that action that will go ahead and remove that. OPM didn’t have the authority to make that provision and to send that memo. So we are addressing that in the appropriate manner tonight.

GWEN IFILL: Let me ask you about what faces Congress tonight, which is the potential for a government shutdown at midnight. Is this something that you are prepared to do, and — no matter whose fault it is, and if it happens, are you prepared to — for members of Congress to give up their pay?

MARSHA BLACKBURN: Gwen, I know that there is a good bit of conversation around that.

And what we have to realize is that those of us on our side of the aisle were the original co-sponsors and brought forward the no budget, no pay. This is something that is important to us and important that we address it. We — it’s — there is the 27th Amendment that affects the pay, but I think every member of Congress stands and says, look, getting this funding issue right, having the House — the Senate work with us, having the White House work with us, these are imperatives.

Again, we asked them to meet us. We don’t want the federal government to shut down. It is so inappropriate, and it is not respectful of the people that have sent us here to do our jobs.

GWEN IFILL: Well, we will certainly be watching to see what happens.

MARSHA BLACKBURN: Yes.

GWEN IFILL: Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, thank you so much.

MARSHA BLACKBURN: Thank you, yes.