PHOENIX — An Arizona congressman said one reason he did not vote for a Republican health care bill on Thursday is because he was not given ample time to read it.
“I did not get a chance to read those changes, but that was the additional $8 billion in spending that was put in because of the requests of moderates that had bounced off the bill,” U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos on Thursday.
Biggs, the only Arizona House Republican to vote against the bill, said President Donald Trump called about 10 minutes before the vote to encourage him to change his mind.
“I had a wonderful, cordial conversation with the president earlier [Thursday],” Biggs said.
“He was gracious and he did not twist arms, he did not make threats, anything like that. It was just, ‘What can you do? If possible, come on board.’ He was very cordial.”
The bill was passed by Congress on Thursday, less than 24 hours after the $8 billion amendment was given to the House Rules Committee, despite Biggs’ vote.
Biggs said another reason he voted no is he promised his constituents during his campaign that he would not vote in support of anything without reading it first. Thursday was another example that, though he had been keeping up with all the bill’s changes but was not given a final copy.
“If you’ve been reading all along, you could probably catch up with the amendment that was done [Wednesday] night, provided it was accessible,” he said.
Biggs said he was able to garner, from what he was able to read, that the new health care bill doesn’t follow through on the Republican Party’s election promise to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.
“The reality is, of course this isn’t a repeal,” he said. “It doesn’t adhere to the Republican Party platform that we said that Obamacare is unconstitutional. You take away those two things and we’re not keeping a promise.”
The bill passed Thursday would remove Obamacare, but install a new health care system in its place that is drastically different. Biggs said that is not enough.
“Are we moving toward reduced premiums? Are we setting people free? Are they getting to make their own choices? And the answer is: The federal government is still in charge of everyone’s health insurance in this country,” he said.
Biggs also argued that, without an analysis of the bill by the impartial Congressional Budget Office, he cannot guarantee the Republican plan will lower premiums.
“I bet it’s still two or weeks out before we get that (analysis),” he said. “That’s worrisome as well.”
Biggs proposed a few amendments to the bill. He wanted states to be able to easily opt out of the federal plan and allow both individuals and businesses to purchase health care across state lines.
“Those two things would help bring down rates enormously,” he said.
Though the bill passed the House, Biggs does not expect it to make it past the next step: the Senate.
“If something passes in the Senate, this isn’t it,” he said. “It’s going to be molded and shaped to whatever they need to get their votes in the Senate. I think they’re going to try really hard but it won’t look like this.”