In River Forest, congressman explains how GOP could dismantle Obamacare

In audio of the closed meeting, Rep. Peter Roskam also lays out his political vision

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

At a Feb. 10 event hosted by the Oak Park and River Forest Republican Organizations, and held at Good Earth Greenhouse in River Forest, Republican Rep. Peter Roskam (6th District), laid out what could likely be his party's slow, deliberate and stealth method for dismantling the Affordable Care Act. 

Roskam addressed the RSVP-only meeting as a crowd of around 40 protesters demonstrated outside. Before he began speaking, a reporter and photographer from Wednesday Journal were told to leave the venue. The meeting, however, was recorded by one of the attendees, who uploaded the audio to YouTube (Roskam's remarks begin at roughly the 17:40 mark).

Before talking about Obamacare, in particular, Roskam recalled his and his GOP colleagues' surprised reaction to President Donald Trump's upset victory last November. 

"People [were] all of a sudden awakened to the possibility of, 'Wow, all of this stuff we've been talking about is possible,'" said Roskam, who had avoided confronting the protesters after entering the facility through the back door. 

"We're at a moment in time, and you can just completely sense it right now, when there is a cumulative sense of relief within the business community," Roskam said. "One of the reasons the economy is flourishing again, and nothing has happened, is because people are convinced that no one is going to be on their back. There's not going to be some malevolent bureaucrat coming in, saying, 'We're going to shut you down, this, that or the other thing." 

Roskam also praised the majority of President Trump's cabinet picks, describing them as "stellar" overall. He called former Kansas Rep. Michael Pompeo (R-4th), Trump's pick to head the CIA, as "a brilliant lawyer, a brilliant businessman" and "unbelievable guy" who will "bring the authority and strength of the U.S. intelligence agencies to keep us safe."

Roskam also had high praise for Tom Price, the recently confirmed Health and Human Services Secretary. Roskam — who sits on the Health subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, the powerful body that makes recommendations on revenue-raising items — said that he served on the House Budget Committee with the former Georgia congressman. 

"If I could choose a single person who will have the authority under the Affordable Care Act to do everything that needs to be done," Roskam said, "the single person I would have chosen is Tom Price, and by some crazy set of circumstances, so did Donald Trump."

Roskam told the crowd of at least 30 people that the GOP could maneuver around voting to dismantle the controversial healthcare legislation and that Price would be in the driver's seat. 

"Here's what the liberals didn't figure when they created the ACA," Roskam said. "There are 1,400 — one, four, zero, zero — times in the ACA when it says, 'the Secretary of Human Services may,' and 'the Secretary of Human Services shall.'

"So what does that tell you? They didn't create a statute that ever contemplated that a conservative was ever going to have that kind of power and what we want is the smart person who is in their adjusting those dials," the congressman said, "helping us to dismantle the system that is in there that has so aggrieved so many people and then create something that can be ultimately transformational."  

Roskam didn't go into detail about what that "transformational" alternative might look like and he didn't specify what discretionary adjustments Price plans on making. 

According to an estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, at least 18 million people could lose their health insurance coverage if Republicans were to repeal significant aspects of the law without putting in place an alternative plan. 

For the last several days, many of Roskam's constituents have been trying to get him to hold public meetings to discuss the ACA's uncertain future, but so far the six-term incumbent has reportedly rebuffed those requests, preferring to meet, instead, with Republican supporters. 

Several of Roskam's constituents who were interviewed have said that his office has not been responsive to their emails, letters and phone calls. 

At the Feb. 10 event in River Forest, Joseph Morris, an attorney and conservative activist, praised Roskam's constituent outreach efforts.

"Contrary to what folks out there would have you believe," Morris said, referencing the protesters, whose voices could be heard in the audio, "Roskam is not doing backroom deals. He's taking his ideas and shopping them out to the critics. He's talking to a roomful of think-tank people and critical economists and journalists with the cameras rolling. He's laying out his ideas, he's taking questions." 

Before praising Roskam, Morris laid out his own ideas about the current state of politics in America, explaining that the country is "seeing a realignment of sorts." 

"The old coalition of the Democratic Party is driving itself apart, it's crumbling before our very eyes," he said. "They have made investments now for a couple of generations in a few things I don't think can hold together permanently … One is this politics of identity. We no longer identify people by, as Dr. King said, 'the contents of their character.'"  

Morris said that Democrats, instead, would rather cater to "grievance groups" forged by ethnic and religious bonds, "not what they can contribute."

"I hope President Trump is able to lead us to continue to take advantage of the sorting out of the labor movement, because there really isn't one labor movement, anymore," Morris said. "There are two. On the one hand, there is the labor movement that we've known for 100 years, the labor movement of people who actually work and build things, that is a necessary part of the capitalist system.

"Then there is a whole other labor movement that, I think we're hearing out there now," he said. "That it's the public sector unions, the people who don't actually produce useful goods and services. They are the people who provide the permanent infrastructure of government, the permanent government all levels — from the school district to the park district levels on up to the national government." 

That last part of Morris' speech drew audible gasps from the audience inside of Good Earth, with one person saying, "No!" 

Roskam reinforced Morris' point in describing what he called a "great debate that is upon us right now." He said that one side of that debate, which "is on display tonight, you can sense it," believes the economy is a fixed pie and "that if somebody does well, somebody else is doing poorly."  

The congressman juxtaposed that side with a side that believes that "the economy is a growing pie if we do it right and as it expands," he added, there is "more opportunity for more people." 

 "What we've got to make sure is that, as we're competing in this great arena of new ideas, that we do not fall into the trap of letting our opponents, God bless them, create this false dichotomy [that says] someone's success means the demise of another's."


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Dean Rogers from Oak Park  

Posted: February 17th, 2017 3:59 AM

The easiest way to dismantle this Obamanation would be to do nothing.It is on life support and will be gone in 2 years.Another large insurer pulled out this week(Humana),leaving some states residents with only medicaid.If the republicans attempt to replace this bill,it too will fail,and they will get all the blame.Leave it alone,and the democrats and Mr.Obama himself("If you like your doctor,you can keep your doctor;if you like your plan,you can keep your plan")can take all the blame for another idea that results in unintended consequences;just as the sanctuary city law will do.Tha ACA is dying;for the gop to repeal it would be letting dems off the hook and allow them to escape any blame for this monstrosity they created.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: February 14th, 2017 4:06 PM

Nice try, but, again, I don't like or trust Rahm Emanuel, regardless of who he worked for in the past.

Mike Hanline  

Posted: February 14th, 2017 3:54 PM

"...a vast bureaucracy with crushing regulations..." Could you elaborate on this, Eva? What exactly are these "crushing regulations" to which you refer? The Dodd-Frank Act which created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and was passed after Wall Street recklessly blew up the economy? Besides the poor investment bankers, who else is being crushed by out-of-control regulations?

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: February 14th, 2017 2:37 PM

Well, if I am a DNC operative, they can't be too happy with my voting for Rauner (to counter Madigan) and the few other Republicans I cast votes for in the past. No, Faith, you probably won't understand, but what I am, unlike you, is someone who bothers to research and gather the facts before I opine on a topic.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: February 14th, 2017 10:57 AM

You live in a fantasy world, Eva. We're about to see "crony capitalism" on a scale that would make Spiro Agnew blush.

Eva Sorock  

Posted: February 14th, 2017 7:43 AM

I have known Rep. Roskam since he was first elected, and I know these comments do not show his true character. He works hard every day to make sure the economy works for every person - President Obama had eight years to solve the country's problems, and we ended up with less than 2% growth, a massive national debt, a vast bureaucracy with crushing regulations, and the kind of crony capitalism that benefitted only his pals in the 1%. Small wonder that Donald Trump appealed to so many forgotten voters. It's time to give his excellent Cabinet a chance, along with the hard workers like Peter Roskam in Congress. There's no room in this picture for public union activists or worse, outside demonstrators from Marxist organizations.

Lisa Smith Notter  

Posted: February 14th, 2017 7:06 AM

Thank you for the article but please learn the difference between there and their.

Kathy Wyman  

Posted: February 13th, 2017 5:49 PM

Now voters can hear first-hand exactly how little remorse Roskam (along with his fellow Republicans in DC) have over the fact that millions of people will lose their health care if the GOP succeeds in passing its greed-driven agenda. It's pathetic how willing they are to scrap other people's health care when they themselves are set for life. Roskam's repeated unwillingness to meet with various chapters of the League of Women Voters is something of which he ought to be deeply ashamed. We obviously need to keep reminding him that he is a civil servant. That's the job description. US reps in Congress shouldn't be cherry-picking meetings with only the voters who will tell them what they want to hear. Imagine if you went to work one day & your boss instructed to you to prepare a presentation for 100 people, and you said, "Nah, not gonna do it - I'm just going to speak to those 10 or 15." It's appalling the way he doesn't even bother to pretend he cares about his constituents, continuing to run away. Time for him to go!

John Rood Lewis  

Posted: February 13th, 2017 4:43 PM

So, Rep Roskam still believes in the trickle-down theory, though he was avoiding that term, and in spite of the fact that , according to al the numbers, the wealth has been rushing upwards in a torrent to the very top 1% for the last 30 years or so. He's another GOP scammer, hellbent on making the rich richer, the poor poorer, and shrinking the middle class. Let's see which tax cuts he endorses, shall we. Let's see who helps the most.

Nancy Groch  

Posted: February 13th, 2017 2:07 PM

Very disturbing. I live in his district. This audio shows how disconnected Roskam, and many in this closed door session are. The goal seems to destroy as much as possible, and not consider the constituents' wishes. Total bs. And laughing at the people that are trying to talk to him really does make him deplorable!

Rani Morrison from Oak Park  

Posted: February 12th, 2017 11:50 PM

If he represents your district and is not interacting with his constituents....VOTE HIM OUT. The irony of throwing out the press and squandering the opportunity to craft your message to the public and protesters, upended by your own "vetted" attendee taping the entire thing.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: February 12th, 2017 11:13 AM

People who believe "the economy is flourishing again" need to look at the hard facts and figures. After the last Republican president presided over the national economy running into a ditch, President Obama's efforts saw a prolonged, steady upward climb. Not spectacular but positive and consistent. Those are facts, not my opinion. I believe what the Congressman means to saw is that the stock market is :flourishing." That is most definitely not the same as the overall economy flourishing, as mainstream has seen in the past.

Virginia Ellis from Downers Grove  

Posted: February 12th, 2017 9:48 AM

I live in his district and he refuses to speak with us! It is very sad that we have a Representative that does not represent his district. I am appalled that his thinks a Cabinet of billionaires and people with no backkground in their specific department are a good choice! Climate denier, against public education, etc. The first thing he did starting the new session was to try to remove ethics, I think that says to all.

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