PHOENIX — An Arizona congressman said the Republican health care bill passed in the House on Thursday was not what he wanted, but it fulfilled another goal.
“I thought that it was a worthwhile effort. It was designed to try to give us momentum in the Senate,” U.S. Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos.
The bill passed Thursday served as the first step in the major campaign promise of President Donald Trump to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also referred to as Obamacare.
Franks said the bill’s uncertain future in a “dysfunctional Senate” could be an issue for any further plans Trump may have for his first term.
“It’s going to take some changes in the Senate otherwise the Trump legislative agenda is in deep, deep trouble,” he said.
The congressman was resigned to the bill not passing the Senate, but hoped it was the start of a movement.
“This was the first step,” he said. “This wasn’t the final conclusion.
“The hope was it will make it difficult for the Senate not to do the right thing. We can press them at least to give us a reasonable bill.”
He also said he disliked that the bill had to be shaped to fit “inane” Senate processes.
“It’s like trying to fit a camel through a keyhole,” he said.
Franks took umbrage with the Byrd Rule, which allows senators to block legislation if it is deemed during the reconciliation process that it would significantly up the federal deficit for longer than 10 years.
The rule prevents the full repeal of Obamacare, which is Franks’ ultimate goal.
The congressman said the bill “fell far short of what I wanted” but saw it as a necessary evil of sorts.
“I just came to the conclusion that, given the circumstances that we’re in, that it would hurt us far worse not to see it pass than it will to pass it,” Franks said, later adding that a failure to pass the health care bill could come back to haunt Republicans when it comes time to work on tax reform.
“Any effort to finally try to repeal at least one entitlement goes away,” he said. “That’s the worst scenario, in my judgment.”
Franks denied the allegations of some congressman — such as U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) — who claimed they did not get to read the bill in full before the vote.
“All but the latest and very small amendment … all of that has been available for days in clear, textual language,” he said.
Biggs voted against the measure, saying he promised his constituents during his campaign that he would not vote in support of anything without reading it first.