Dr. Tom Price On Why No Progress Yet On Medical Device Tax Repeal
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HH: I begin this hour with one of the great men of the House of Representatives, Dr. Tom Price, who is the congressman from Georgia’s 6th Congressional district, and he really is one of us. He’s one of the good guys. Congressman Price, great to have you, hope you had a good Easter.
TP: Hey, Hugh, thanks so much. We did indeed.
HH: Now Doc, I don’t know that you’ve declared, yet. I know you’ve got a lot of great candidates down in Georgia, but I am really hoping you run for the United States Senate.
TP: Well, you’re kind. You’re kind. We’re thinking about it. We’re toying with it. We’ll see. I’ll let you know.
HH: When do you think you’re going to decide that?
TP: You’re at the top of the list. Within the next three or four weeks, we’ll decide.
HH: Well, terrific, and I’m one of those people saying come in, make yourself at home, and let’s raise you some money.
TP: There you go.
HH: Now having paid you that compliment, I am really, really bent out of shape with the Ways And Means Committee, that you guys have not passed a repeal of the medical device tax. And Pete Roskam came on yesterday and said oh, we’re afraid it will get hijacked, and poor Erik Paulsen walked into my buzz saw last hour. I posted the audio of that. What is wrong with your chairman? This is the easiest thing in the world to pass and send back to the Senate.
TP: Look, Hugh, there’s nothing wrong at all. One, the medical device tax needs to be repealed. There’s no doubt about it. It’s a 2.3% tax on gross receipts, you know, and it’s harming innovation, it’s harming the quality of health care. The challenge is if we were to simply pass a medical device tax repeal, send to the Senate, then Harry Reid loads it up with all sorts of nonsense, sends it back to the House, and jams us at a certain time. So you’ve got to get the agreement beforehand, before you pass it over to the Senate. Otherwise, they hijack the doggone thing.
HH: Now with all due respect, Congressman, that’s not regular order. If he sends it back, if he sends it back with a bunch of crap, you guys say no, and then you make the argument to the public. But Mitch McConnell…
TP: The Senate will come back, no, no, you’re right. Listen, I don’t disagree with you at all. I don’t disagree with you. This is a disaster of a tax. It’s one of 21 disasters of taxes in the President’s health care bill. But it needs to be repealed, and I think we’re going to repeal it. I really do.
HH: But when they do it, here’s what happened with Roskam, and Pete’s a good guy. You know him from Ways And Means.
TP: Sure, he is.
HH: He comes on and he talks for eight minutes trying to say why the Republicans are afraid of acting. And my audience and I start hearing fear, fear, fear, leadership blockade, then David Drucker sends me an article that suggests, really, Chairman Camp isn’t too interested in doing this, because it might take away from his comprehensive tax bill, and the energy goes out of the base, and people just walk away.
TP: No, no. On the contrary, look, I explained it in 20 seconds, and that’s the logistics of it. We’re going to get it done, and you’re going to celebrate, and I’m going to celebrate, and we’re going to toast.
HH: Now is that really going to happen?
HH: Are you really going to move that bill out of the Congress, out of the Ways And Means and onto the floor and over to the Senate?
TP: I believe we will. Now look, you know, I’m a corporal, I’m not a general, so I don’t get to call these shots. However, I believe that the discussions that we’ve had lead me to have confidence that we will move this bill before, I’d say before the August break. And it’s got to be done, because this one, what’s happening is this is killing innovation in health care. And as a physician, I can tell you, as you well know, that the quality of health care in this country is being diminished because of Washington, not because there aren’t bright people out there discovering all sorts of wonderful things, but because Washington won’t allow the innovation to work.
HH: Congressman, you know me. I’ve shared a platform with you.
HH: I am 100% with you. But when you say the magic words ‘before the August break’, I just think people say “Screw the Republicans.” I’m never going to, if they cannot get their act together on something this simple, that has a 79-20 vote in the United States Senate, that they truly do deserve the stupid party label. If they can’t…
TP: Now Hugh, that 79-20 vote occurred last week. So it was very recent that we’ve had the Senate go on record. Of course, they don’t want to go on record for anything. But it was very recent that we’ve had them go on record for anything. So give us an opportunity to act upon information that we have. This is not rocket science, but you’ve got to work through the logistics of how this happens. We’ve got a president in office right now who’s had four straight years of trillion dollar plus deficits. That’s irresponsible and reckless to the future of this country. And while we’ve got it, the Senate has been complicit in all of that. And what we’re trying to do as the minority party in Washington is to play defense, but also to score a few points. And this is one of those points that we’re going to be able to score, I think.
HH: Well, for 13 years, I’ve sat behind this microphone and urged people to support good people. And then along comes an opening, like a giant, big, enormous opening of a 79-20 vote, and one of the good guys, yesterday, Pete Roskam says we may not be able to do it,,,
TP: I don’t believe that.
HH: …and then one of the best guys, Tom Price, says by August.
TP: I don’t believe that.
HH: What do people, what do they do with that? They’re tired of hearing this. Why even bother being in politics if our Republicans are so sclerotic, cannot move, can’t do anything nimbly, that we lose every media cycle, Dr. Price?
TP: Hugh, you know that the machination of politics aren’t in one week periods of time. They are in congresses. They’re in sessions of Congress. And when you look back, when one looks back on this Congress, the 113th Congress, I believe that Republicans and conservatives are going to be able to say that these guys and gals did the kinds of things that needed to be done to hold this President to account, and to move forward as much as possible positive policy. The repeal of the medical device tax is going to be one of those things.
HH: You know, this is profound, and let’s move off of medical device to a larger thing. I don’t agree with that at all. I think here we are, nearing May, we haven’t had any hearings on Benghazi but one, we haven’t had anything passed except the budget…
TP: Not true. Not true. Not true. There have been all sorts of hearings in the Intelligence Committee, which is not public.
TP: And that frustrates people.
TP: That frustrates people, but that’s real stuff going on where they’re getting real answers and holding people to account.
HH: Well, Darrell Issa hasn’t had but one hearing, and I’m talking about what the voters know. And they look at the Congress, and this is part of governing, is being able to communicate with people.
HH: The Speaker doesn’t show up, you do. The leader doesn’t go out and talk about this sort of stuff, and Dave Camp can’t be found. He’s like Casper the Ghost. And you’ve got this horrible tax, and people are losing their jobs every day, and we talk about budgets. And it’s sort of like the Growth and Opportunity Report said Republicans have to learn to talk about people and what the Democrats are doing to them.
TP: You’re right.
HH: And we don’t do that.
TP: When you have me on your show in October, are you going to remember whether it passed, the repeal passed in May or August, or September? No. You’re going to remember that it passed.
HH: Oh, I don’t agree with you on that. I think a lot of people who are losing their jobs, I did three hours on this with entrepreneurs two weeks ago about companies that are closing, and people are losing their jobs. And the people who are losing their jobs right now are going to remember that the Republicans sat on their hands pretending to do strategy. I think, I couldn’t disagree with you more, and you and I are friends. But the pace has got to change. You guys have got to just start doing stuff.
TP: Hugh, we’re not pretending to do strategy. What we’re trying to do is to figure out the way as the minority party in Washington to get a positive policy result. That just doesn’t happen by clicking your fingers. That happens because you line up the kinds of things that need to be done to make it so that it works. And I understand. Look, this is a terrible tax. It’s the first time that the federal government has taxed gross receipts, not profits, in a 2.3% area, and that’s stifling to innovation, that’s stifling to the quality of health care in this country, and it needs to go away. And we’re committed to making that happen. I don’t know what the others have said, but look, we’re going to make it happen in this Congress.
HH: But Mitch McConnell came on this show, and he also told Roll Call, they need to send me a bill quick. They need to get it over here and I can move it through. And we haven’t even had a hearing this week. And Erik Paulsen just told me, and I don’t want to put words in his mouth, you go listen to him, leadership doesn’t want to move it.
TP: Well, that’s information to me, and I appreciate that, but that’s not what they have committed to me. But I will go back. I’ve just arrived back in Atlanta this evening, and I’ll go back to Washington on Monday, and I will have a face to face conversation with the members of the leadership and ask clearly, pointedly, when are we moving this bill.
HH: Well, that’s all I can ask for, and that’s why I hope you run for Senate. I mean, you take the tough questions, and you answer them. If you in fact decide to that, Tom Price…
HH: …what is the number one issue that people should know you will stand for if you go up to the upper chamber?
TP: It’s getting this economy rolling again, sticking to Constitutional principles, and making certain that people appreciate that the things that made us the greatest nation in the history of the world ought to be adhered to. And if we get back on track on those things, then we’ll be able to turn this country around.
HH: And the reason I really want you do to it is I don’t think anyone knows more about Obamacare’s disaster than you do.
HH: Does anyone quite yet get, even in Georgia, the epic scale of the disaster that Obamacare is?
TP: No, this is phenomenal. We had Sebelius, Secretary Sebelius before the Ways And Means Committee today, and she was absolutely incapable of answering the questions about why the quality of care was going down, why the cost was going up, why the access was being diminished, and all as a result of the President’s health care bill.
HH: Well, Dr. Price, I hope you take your time in Georgia to talk to everyone, and I hope you declare your candidacy, and I hope to raise you a lot of money. And when you get back to D.C. next week, I hope you’ll hold the pedal to the metal and get these people to pass this bill in a week, because that’s what people expect.
TP: I hope to get back on your show next week, and we’ll be able to give you the answer to the question.
HH: I appreciate that so much. Take care, Congressman Tom Price, one of the great guys in the Congress for the reason you just heard. He answers questions, he takes questions, he shows up, and he’d make a tremendous senator from Georgia. I know there are a lot of great Georgians who want to be senator. More power to you. I don’t live in the state. But I’ve got to tell you, Tom Price is among the smartest guys in the United States House of Representatives, and he would make a great, great United States Senator.
End of interview.