House GOP’s First Blunder of 2017

Rep. Blackburn concedes 'the timing is bad' for gutting ethics oversight body

With a new Congress sworn in today, the public can expect big changes. That’s because for the first time since 2006, both chambers are controlled by the Republicans, while the White House is also controlled by a Republican president.

That power structure and fortunate alignment allow the Republicans to kick off what U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) calls a “repeal agenda” — an effort to undo many of the laws Democrats passed under President Obama’s regime.

“I totally agree with you, Republicans do not ‘message’ well … It takes times to message correctly.”

Blackburn made the remarks about repeal efforts on “The Laura Ingraham Show” Tuesday morning. She told LifeZette Editor-in-Chief Laura Ingraham that the Republicans have a lot of work to do to repeal all the Obama-era laws.

The Democrats had similar full control after Obama’s win in 2008. Democrats controlled the House, Senate, and White House from 2009 to 2011.

It meant the Democrats were able to pass Obamacare and a huge spending stimulus, and they could approve nominees to federal posts with relative ease.

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The Democrats in the House of Representatives also passed an ethics rule in 2008 that created the Office of Congressional Ethics. Then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi created the office because of charges the House Ethics Committee was too timid in going after members charged with ethical violations.

Ingraham took Blackburn to task for repealing that Office of Congressional Ethics the day before the new Congress is sworn in.

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But Blackburn said the office has always caused “due process” concerns, allowing anonymous charges and causing House members to incur tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend against many charges that never panned out.

Blackburn said House members were never able to face their accuser, or know his or her name. Blackburn, who also sits on President-Elect Donald Trump’s transition team, said she understood Ingraham’s concerns.

“I agree with you, Laura, the timing does not look good, but you’re right — the timing is bad,” Blackburn said.

But Blackburn indicated she believed in the ethics repeal, and in giving full power back to the Ethics Committee.

The ethics change, and the related fallout, are small potatoes when compared to the real work the Congress faces in 2017. Obamacare will again be the front-and-center issue for the first few months of the new Republican Congress. The law, passed in 2010, has set its roots into the ground and created entanglements that will cause problems if it is suddenly repealed.

Democrats are already warning Republicans that if they repeal the Affordable Care Act, it will kick 20 million people off their plans.

But Obamacare also kicked people off their plans. The law set standards for minimal health insurance plans — so people who were happy with their plans started losing them around 2013, when the law’s teeth began to clamp down. People had to then use an unreliable website to sign up for new plans.

Many of the warnings of Republicans in Congress that Obamacare was an illusion began to come true. But Republicans’ promises to repeal Obamacare have also boxed them in.

The GOP caucuses have been vowing to “repeal and replace” the law for almost seven years. They cannot retreat now.

So how will they do it? The GOP will be pushing the idea that “universal access” to health insurance is better than mandatory “universal coverage,” Politico reports.

In other words, the Republicans want to get rid of the main part of Obamacare — the mandatory coverage and the penalties.

Blackburn told Ingraham that a repeal law will allow for about three years of gradual withdrawal from Obamacare’s regulations. She also said health insurance companies need that time to do the underwriting and actuarial work. Congress also needs to give time to health insurance providers to set up payment systems.

Ingraham took issue with Blackburn’s labeling of House efforts as a “repeal agenda,” noting it may sound like taking things away from the American people.

“I totally agree with you, Republicans do not ‘message’ well,” said Blackburn. “It takes time to message correctly.”

Also keeping the Senate busy will be all the hearings and votes on Donald Trump’s nominees. Democrats are likely to target U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the nominee for attorney general. The other main target will likely be Rex Tillerson, the ExxonMobil CEO, who is Trump’s nominee for secretary of State.

And Democrats have also indicated they will target U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Trump’s eagle-eyed choice to be head of the Office of Management and Budget. Democrats fear Mulvaney will want to cut too much.

meet the author

Political reporter, LifeZette. Indiana University journalism grad. Boston U. business grad. Former Indiana, Alabama statehouse reporter, Daytona Beach editorial writer.

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