Rep. Perry talks health care, Freedom Caucus and more
As a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, U.S. Rep. Scott Perry has found himself at the center of national debate over federal health care reform.
Elected to his third term in November 2016, the Dillsburg Republican campaigned on repealing the Affordable Care Act, but talks on that front appear to have stalled as Congress prepares to leave Washington, D.C., for a two-week recess.
Perry said he told Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and other leadership he would be willing to stay to continue working on health care reform, but he understands legislators have scheduled events.
Freedom Caucus: Ryan isn't likely to grant Perry or his fellow Freedom Caucus members any favors after the group proved instrumental in downing the speaker's attempts weeks ago to push through his repeal and replace plan, titled the American Health Care Act.
President Donald Trump led a late push to garner the necessary votes — issuing an ultimatum that they pass it or prepare to endure "Obamacare" for the foreseeable future — but the bill was ultimately pulled as it became apparent it would fail.
Trump specifically met with Perry's caucus before the bill was pulled in an effort to convince skeptical members who felt Ryan's bill didn't go far enough in distancing the federal government from the ACA.
Perry said he was prepared to vote against the bill because it didn't accomplish his primary goals: removing the federal government from health care decisions and lowering prices.
Perry claims about 50 Republicans were prepared to vote no for various reasons, but Trump specifically targeted his outrage at the Freedom Caucus.
“The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!” Trump tweeted in late March.
A staunch supporter of Trump's White House bid, Perry noted that his fellow caucus members have been among the president's strongest supporters. But, he said, he — not the president — would have had to answer to his constituents about supporting a bill he claimed would have raised health care costs.
The Freedom Caucus did lose one member — Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas — in the fracas, but Perry said he believes the other three dozen or so members still comprise the most collaborative, deliberate body within Congress.
On Trump: Trump has threatened to work with Democrats to pass health care reform, but Perry said that threat, along with the "arbitrary deadline" he threatened before the bill was pulled, are just negotiating tactics that lack credibility.
"(The Democrats) are so averse to this president, I don't see it as realistic," he said of the potential for bipartisan collaboration. "We'll be here when (the president is) ready."
Despite the public bumps in the road, Perry said he remains optimistic about repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, but if that effort stalls, Congress will continue working on other priorities, including tax reform and infrastructure funding.
As for Trump's first few months in charge, Perry admits the new president hasn't been perfect, but he said the mood of the country seems more optimistic with rollbacks of government regulations, job growth and less illegal immigration.
Constant media coverage of possible ties between Trump's campaign and Russia have piqued public interest, but Perry said congressional members differ on whether it's a big deal or not.
"If you have reservations about this administration, it's a big deal," he said. "If you support Trump, you see a lot of accusations but no real evidence."
Ultimately, Perry said he's looking for facts regarding alleged Russian connections and allegations that the previous administration ordered unlawful surveillance of Trump's campaign.
He added that he's encouraged by the Trump administration's willingness to engage with the legislative branches, which is a departure from the previous administration.
House and Senate Republicans have been criticized for not engaging enough with their constituents, though Perry did hold a town-hall meeting in Red Lion in March.
Perry said he's reluctant to hold another live meeting during the coming recess because health care reform hasn't moved forward and he has a full schedule of appointments planned.