Interviews

Rep. Roskam: The CBO got it wrong before

Member of the House Ways and Means Committee weighs in

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," March 13, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

STUART VARNEY, GUEST HOST: I want to go to Illinois Republican Congressman Pete Roskam. He’s a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Congressman, you heard what we have been talking about here. What is your comment on these just initial points that we’re getting in the CBO report?

REP. PETER ROSKAM, R-ILL.: Two things come to mind. First of all, I have not seen it.

VARNEY: Yes.

ROSKAM: So, that said, but the first point is, CBO got it wrong when the Affordable Care Act passed. They predicted that it was going to increase coverage to 20 million people. And the fact is, it came in at half that, at 10 million. That’s the first point.

The second point is, this is looking at part of the puzzle. This is not the whole remedy. This is not the whole approach. This is the part that deals with reconciliation. There are still other parts that we’re proposing that will deal with what Secretary Price can do at Health and Human Services and other bills moving forward in terms of insurance reforms.

So, is it a hot headline? Yes, it’s a hot headline. But it’s not something that describes the totality of the approach. And here’s what I know. The status quo is not working. The status quo of ObamaCare is underperforming. And I think most folks in my constituency say, look, let’s turn the page.

Let’s make sure that folks aren’t hurt, but, at the same time, let’s try and do something far better.

VARNEY: Congressman, earlier today on the Fox Business Network, I interviewed Douglas Elmendorf, a previous director of the CBO. And I asked him how he had scored ObamaCare in the first place. Here’s his response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOUGLAS ELMENDORF, FORMER DIRECTOR, CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE: The CBO’s predictions weren’t fully accurate. They were not as accurate as I wanted them to be, but they were a lot more accurate than the random guesses made by a lot of other people, including a lot of opponents.

And CBO was more right than other people were. That doesn’t mean you should take their numbers as precisely accurate. They’re not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VARNEY: OK, you heard what he had to say there. Don’t take the numbers as precisely accurate. They’re not.

I take it you agree with that sentiment?

ROSKAM: I do agree with that sentiment, Stuart.

And I think here’s this larger point. Here’s what we know. The things that are certain is that the status quo has not performed well. In other words, there’s people in my constituency and around the country who were told, if you like your doctor, you can keep it, you can keep your coverage, and you are going to save $2,500 per year.

None of that turned out to be true, by and large. And so I think what most folks are saying is, look, we’re willing to move forward on something new.  We want a reasonable and a smooth transition. The president talked about that in his State of the Union message.

Secretary Price at Health and Human Services has talked about that particularly as well. Let’s transition into something, because we know that the status quote is not sustainable. These markets are collapsing.

And the proof is that is, one-third of U.S. counties only have one health insurer. So, we can’t stay here. The question is, let’s move forward and let’s move forward cautiously and deliberately, but let’s move forward, because we don’t have to live like this.

VARNEY: I do have to ask about tax reform. Seems like -- and you’re on the House Ways and Means Committee. That’s what you are dealing with, tax reform. Seems like the deadline is being shifted further and further, later and later in the year.

On this program, treasury secretary said that we’re going to get it signed and delivered by the August recess. That now seems to be stretching out into the fall. Will you tell our viewers that, yes, indeed, we will get tax reform done this calendar year, 2017, no question about it? Would you do that for us?

ROSKAM: Stuart, here’s what I think is happening.

I think it happens in 2017 or it doesn’t happen. So, either we recognize that there’s an incredible crescendo, there’s momentum behind this, and it happens in 2017, or the U.S. will miss the opportunity.

So I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to press forward. Tax reform is more like ripe fruit. You know when the fruit is ripe. You don’t necessarily just pull the fries out of the fryer. You know what I’m saying?

(LAUGHTER)

VARNEY: Sure. I do, indeed, sir.

Now, I was told that the president, President Trump, could just preempt all of this and simply say that whenever we get tax reform, it will be retroactive, for example, to the day of inauguration, January the 20th.  And then everybody knows this is what we’re going to get and it’s going to go retroactive. That would solve a few problems, wouldn’t it?

ROSKAM: I think it would solve a few problems. I’m not convinced necessarily that the president has the authority under the law just to do that by declaration.

But, clearly, the effective date is an important one. And I think moving forward, we want to make sure that transitions here are incredibly important, that transition rules are well-understood and that transitions are smooth from a tax code that is basically failing and dissolving underneath us into a tax code that we think can create more growth.

But in fairness to everybody, you need a smooth transition. And certainly you don’t want to pull the rug out from people by making it so jarring and so upsetting that they can’t make proper plans.

VARNEY: Congressman, you do a great job of calming everybody down.

Congressman Pete Roskam, House Way and Means Committee, thanks for joining us, sir. Appreciate it.

ROSKAM: Thanks, Stuart.

VARNEY: Yes, sir.

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