You are here

Tom Reed and the Problem Solvers Caucus--Too Little, Too Late

Submitted by Robin Messing on Tue, 10/30/2018 - 2:39pm

Tom Reed is constantly touting his pride in being a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus--a small bipartisan group of legislators who are willing to reach across the aisle to develop compromise legislation to be passed by Congress. While I applaud his effort to reach across the aisle to get things done, there are several things we must keep in mind when evaluating his role in this caucus.

1) The Problem Solvers Caucus has yet to get any legislation passed.

2) Despite the rhetoric, Reed's voting record is still highly partisan. According to Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight web site, Reed votes the Trump party line over 96% of the time. There is a fundamental contradiction between Reed's claim to be reaching across the aisle in a spirit of bipartisanship and his demonization and bashing of "Extreme Ithaca Liberals".

3) Reed voted for the American Health Care Act in May 2017. This bill would have killed the Affordable Care Act and allowed insurers to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. This bill was so heartless that President Trump called it "mean". Yes, that's right. The guy who would later order that immigrant children and babies be ripped away from their parents and housed in what were effectively jails, called the bill that Tom Reed voted for "mean". When you vote for a bill so vile that even someone who perpetrates a monstrosity against children calls it "mean" you do not deserve re-election.

4) The tax bill that Reed voted for last year contains a provision that for all practical purposes repealed the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate. The Trump Administration has used this repeal as a basis to argue in court that that it is unconstitutional to require health care plans to cover pre-existing conditions. (See also here). To be fair, we must acknowledge the tax bill’s benefit. As Paul Ryan tweeted “A secretary at a public high school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, said she was pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week she said [that] will more than cover her Costco membership for the year.” 

The Congressional Budget Office predicted that the tax bill that he helped pass last year would increase our national debt by debt by $1.9 trillion over the next ten years. The numbers have just come in for the 2018 Fiscal year and the deficit was $113 billion greater for 2018 than it was for 2017—that’s a whopping 17 percent increase.  Had the Republicans not passed their tax cut bill, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the government would have raised $202 billion more in revenue than it actually did.

Even though the rich got most of the benefits of this tax law, the poor and middle class will suffer in the long run. Last December, around the time the tax bill was being passed, Paul Ryan said that we would have to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and welfare to pay for the deficits. And Mitch McConnell recently confirmed this when  he hinted that there should be cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security to bring the deficit under control. (See also here.)

I am pleased that Reed is now taking a more reasonable approach. But before we heap too much praise on him for joining the Problem Solvers, we must remember his role in creating the problem in the first place. Tom Reed expecting us to vote for him because he has joined a group that is trying to clean up his mess is like the employee who takes a crap on the office floor, joins the janitorial crew on their dung duty, and expects to be named employee of the month for his cleanup.