Senator talks tax, health care reform during stop
SCOTTSBLUFF — With voting in the U.S. Senate ending early Thursday evening, Sen. Ben Sasse was able to fly back from the East Coast to conduct a number of field tours before spending Memorial Day in eastern Nebraska with his family.
Sasse toured the Western Sugar factory in Scottsbluff Friday, before speaking briefly to reporters about healthcare and tax reform.
“On tax reform, we need a system that has lower marginal rates but broadens the base by carving out loop holes and special exemptions for the politically connected,” Sasse said. “Right now, if you’re really wealthy or a giant corporation, you’ve got a whole bunch of ways to figure out how to do tax avoidance.”
Sasse said that middle-class families and Nebraska farmers and ranchers don’t have that luxury.
“We frankly don’t want people spending their time trying to figure out how to pay more and more accountant fees to game the tax code,” Sasse said. “We want people to be producing and benefiting their neighbor, and that everyone wants to pay their fair share.”
Sasses would rather have tax dollars going toward what he said are “first priority issues” that the federal government should be dealing with, such as the common defense of the nation.
On the subject of health care reform, Sasse echoed comments made by Sen. Deb Fischer on Thursday, saying that the Senate will not be using the bill advanced by the House of Representatives, and will instead work on it’s own bill.
“The challenge, of course, is that it takes 60 votes in the Senate to do most big and complicated stuff,” he said. “We only have 52 Republican senators, and Democrats don’t want to participate and discuss repealing and replacing Obamacare.”
“What I want is a system where Nebraska farmers and ranchers and families can buy the policy that they want that goes with them across job and geographic change,” Sasse said. “They shouldn’t be required to buy a policy that some bureaucrat in Washington D.C. wants because they end up loading in so many bells and whistles that the plan ends up not being affordable.”
Sasse said that the tour at Western Sugar wasn’t intended to be about health care, but that the conversation quickly shifted to it.
“People immediately started telling me about what’s happening to their premiums and how few choices there are,” Sasse said.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported Wednesday that it had released it’s latest scoring of the American Healthcare Act, which the House of Representatives rushed to a vote and passed on to the Senate rather than waiting to see the impact it would have. The CBO said the house GOP bill would reduce the deficit by $119 billion over the next 10 years, but could leave an estimated 23 million uninsured by 2026.
“The House bill is not the basis of what we’re dealing within the Senate,” Sasse said.
Sasse said that when the House passed its bill, it created a “reset button” for the Senate to tackle.
“We need to do a better job than Obamacare, and frankly, a better job than that bill that’s coming over to us,” he said. “Obviously you want to look at the CBO score and try to understand the mechanics in there, but also admit that the CBO has never been good at this.”
Sasse said the premium rates for Obamacare included in the CBO scorings from 2009 and 2010 went up much faster than projected, and that despite the amount of money spent on Obamacare not nearly as many individuals were covered as the CBO report was predicting.
“CBO scores should always be taken with a grain of salt, and yet we should look at them closely and understand what we can learn from them as the Senate tackles our bill,” he said.