State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Charlie Dent says the GOP needs to ditch the rhetoric

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Mar 28, 2017 5:30 AM

Dent speaks at a press event in Harrisburg. (Photo by Katie Meyer/WITF)

(Harrisburg) -- One of Washington's most moderate Republicans, Pennsylvania Congressman Charlie Dent, has spent the last several weeks trying to urge his colleagues to compromise over healthcare.

But the GOP's long-awaited Affordable Care Act replacement couldn't find enough supporters, and collapsed Friday without a vote.

Dent's response to his conservative colleagues? Essentially, "told you so."

By his assessment, congressional Republicans are divided into several disparate groups--the hardline Freedom Caucus members, the fiscal conservatives, and an ever-shrinking pool of moderates.

On the other hand, Democrats are pretty united, but they're mostly unwilling to cooperate with the president.

Dent said this makes it near-impossible to pass legislation, much less on a tight, arbitrary deadline like the one GOP leadership gave themselves on healthcare.

"It's hard to do big reform issues like healthcare or tax reform when we're having trouble just functioning," he said.

Dent didn't support the proposed ACA replacement plan, and said he thinks his party put too much thought into anti-Obamacare rhetoric and not enough work into actually coming up with a strategy that could win support in the entire, divided GOP, much less across the aisle.

"I think over time some of my colleagues didn't realize the complexities of replacing Obamacare after it's been embedded for seven years," he said. "We should try to get the product right before we start labeling whatever it is we're going to do."

He added that he's worried they'll fall into the same trap with planned tax code reforms, which President Trump and legislative leaders have indicated is next on the agenda.

Dent favors finishing the 2017 appropriations bill first, or taking a look at the debt ceiling or infrastructure.

Published in News, State House Sound Bites

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