The United States had a divided government when Rep. Rick Allen, R-Georgia 12th District, was first elected to Congress in 2014 and is in that situation again, he noted in remarks Monday to the Statesboro Rotary Club.
Allen blamed votes by some fellow Republicans for earlier failures to replace the Affordable Care Act and pass an immigration bill, but extolled tax reform as a success. He called a push by the Democrat-controlled House Education and Labor Committee "socialism" and said "Medicare for All" would nearly double federal spending. He expressed continued support for President Donald Trump, particularly in his trade dispute with China.
"I was elected in 2014 and we had divided government then, meaning that we didn't have all the branches, and so we're a little used to it being divided and trying to get things done for the American people," Allen said. "Very difficult, because they're really two different philosophies. There was difference back then; there is a big difference today on what America should look like, the vision for the country."
For two years from Trump's inauguration in January 2017, Republicans held majorities in both the House and the Senate. But they lost their already slim House majority in last November's midterm election.
Allen noted some things he views as successes from those two years. But that was also when a Republican version of health care reform narrowly failed.
"We missed it by one vote, and of course, then we owned health care," Allen said. "Probably we lost in 2018 because we owned it. In other words, we had won the election saying we would repeal and replace Obamacare, and we didn't get it done, missed it by one vote in the Senate."
Extols Trump, tax reform
After that, Trump pushed for tax reform and told GOP congressional leaders it was what they should have done first, before the health care legislation.
"Now, that's how positive this guy is," Allen said. "We're all down, we're all saying we failed to get this done, we can't even agree with each other, and he comes and says we're going to do tax reform."
Tax reform was not easy, he said. But a version passed, and the president signed it.
"Now people still debate the tax reform and who benefits and who doesn't benefit, but I can tell you, America's benefitting, because it's like somebody turned the light switch on," Allen said. "I mean, we went from a very mediocre, no growth pretty much, 1 percent, and frankly it was declining growth, into the best economy in the world."
He credited the tax cuts and simplification for "phenomenal" growth in the gross domestic product.
Besides the health care reform, "the other big disappointment was the immigration reform," Allen said. He didn't mention Trump's insistence on border wall funding, which was the focus of much of the debate at the time, although the legislation had other aspects.
"We had the votes in the House to do that, because we had the majority, but we had 30 (Republican) members who refused to vote for that legislation," Allen said. "All we needed was about 18 of them to vote for it and we could have gotten it to the Senate."
The U.S. government has not passed any immigration reform measure in 30 years, he noted.
"We've got a mess at that border. We've got a mess in this country," Allen said. "And those 30 people, on our own side, who voted against that legislation, they voted against it because they said they were going to lose their seat."
But all of those Republican representatives who voted against the immigration bill lost their seats, he added.
'Medicare for All'
After remarks about how he wants to see a return to balanced budgets and has voted against temporary spending resolutions and the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 because of this, Allen returned to the subject of healthcare. He expressed opposition to "Medicare for All" proposals touted by some Democratic Party presidential primary candidates.
"Medicare for All's a $32 trillion, 10-year deal, $3.2 trillion a year," Allen said. "Right now we spend about $4.4 trillion a year. We're going to double it?"
The $4.4 trillion isn't the current cost of Medicare, but an estimate of all federal spending.
"Where are you going to get that money?" he asked. "I mean, they've got some ideas about that, but it's not going to be good for the economy, because guess what, we have to compete in a global environment."
Allen noted he had voted against legislation that would have increased the minimum wage.
"I'm not going to support things that are one-size-fits-all out of Washington, D.C.," Allen said.
The 'S' word
But the other side, he said, wants to use labor and wage laws to equalize things nationwide, he said.
"In fact, the big deal in the Education and Labor Committee is to try to equalize the labor situation, you know, basically to do away with right-to-work states and promote unionization of all workers, so they're making the same wages across the country. And again, what is that? That's the 'S' word, socialism," Allen said.
During remarks about farming and trade policy, Allen noted that about 90 percent of U.S.-grown cotton is exported, although Americans buy some of it back as finished clothing.
He never used the term "trade war," but spoke of eliminating "bad trade deals." He blamed a recent drop of about 20 cents a pound in the price of cotton on China's devaluation of its unit of currency, the yuan.
"This is manipulation, y'all; this is nothing but manipulation," Allen said. "And that's why we've got to find, like the president's doing, other people we can trust to do business with, because China dumps, they manipulate and they steal our intellectual capital, and they're shipping Fentanyl in here like crazy and killing 161 people a day in this country."
Changing these things is "what the president's fighting for," Allen said.
"And I think it's worth fighting for," he said. "It's tough, it's political suicide, but doggone it, it's time somebody stood up and said we're not taking this anymore."
About 55 seats in the House are considered "toss-up" seats that could go either way in the November 2020 election, Allen said.
"So we'll see how that goes, but I can tell you this, if this Congress doesn't get anything done, these 55 people got a problem, and they know it," he said. "So, I'm assuming they're listening to what I'm listening to and they're going to be eager to try to get something done."
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.