Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers sits down with Melinda Henneberger, Editor-in-Chief of Roll Call, to talk about the 2016 agenda in Congress and her recently-introduced legislation to empower veterans.
Following are excerpts from their conversation:
ON RESTORING THE PEOPLE’S VOICE : “With Speaker Ryan, I see a new start. It has revitalized the Republicans on Capitol Hill. Speaker Ryan has challenged us that we need to be putting forward specific policy solutions. We need to restore the decision making with the people’s representatives in the House and the Senate.
“I believe a lot of the anger is driven by this fear that people think that they are losing representative government. That their elected representatives—those who are closest and most accountable to the people—are not the one’s making the decisions. Public policy decisions should be made with elected representatives. And that debate should take place so that citizens are involved in the debate.”
ON ENACTING SOLUTIONS: “I don’t believe this is going to be a traditional election year here on Capitol Hill. The members are ready to go to work, presenting a choice to America so you can see the specific policy positions we are advocating when it comes to economic growth, or tax reform, or health care, or poverty. You’re going to see us putting forward specific policy positions so the citizens understand what we stand for. We’re on a mission to get as many bills as possible through the House, through the Senate, and onto the President’s Desk.”
ON CURING DISEASES: “I would really like to see us do something on 21st Century Cures. The President talked about the commitment to curing cancer in his State of the Union address. In the House we passed a package of legislation last year: bipartisan, focused on curing diseases, on new therapies, on new breakthroughs, welcoming health innovation, it’s a great package. And if I could do one thing, I think this would be a great thing for us to accomplish—in a bipartisan fashion—in 2016.”
ON EMPOWERING VETERANS: “A year and a half ago the whole country was outraged to hear about what had happened at Phoenix. Veterans that had died waiting for appointments. This is in an agency whose whole purpose is to ensure Veterans get the care they need.
“We have given them more money to hire more doctors and health care providers, and unfortunately the numbers [waiting over 30 days to get an appointment] are only going up—they’ve increased 50 percent.
“Bottom line: we have a problem, and there are solutions available, off-the-shelf. Technology that is used every day, in doctors’ offices, right now, all across the country, and the VA has not been receptive to using it. And so I partnered with Seth Moulton (D-MA) to require the VA to use this off-the-shelf technology. It’s just common sense.
“Through the years the needs of our Veterans have always been one of my top priorities. It’s not a Republican, Democrat, or Independent issue, it’s how we—as a country—show our gratitude to those who have served. “