GOP lawmaker: Universal health care is too expensive but tax cuts for the rich are necessary

“We have to take into account our financial limitations and do the best we can.”

Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, is interviewed on Capitol Hill in Washington. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, is interviewed on Capitol Hill in Washington. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

As moderate Republican lawmakers move away from the Senate health care bill over concerns it doesn’t do enough to preserve insurance access, hardline conservatives are arguing it should be even more stringent — including Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks (R), who thinks universal health care is a non-starter but the wealthy should receive a tax cut.

Appearing on CNN Monday morning, Brooks, a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, argued that health care for all is an unrealistic goal, while discussing the health care bill currently being reviewed by the Senate. According to the Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, approximately 22 million Americans will lose their health insurance under the bill. That number has attracted outrage — but Brooks argued such reactions are overblown.

“I would love for every American to have a perfect health care system where we can deliver perfect care every time someone is ill, but we don’t have enough money,” Brooks said. “We have to take into account our financial limitations and do the best we can.”

But Brooks also seemed unwilling to back away from his support for tax cuts aiding wealthy Americans, despite pressure from host Chris Cuomo.

“The folks that had the money are the ones that create the jobs that employ us,” Brooks argued. “We can take money from the people who have been successful, but every time we do so they have less money to invest. In a free enterprise economy, it’s the wealth that creates the businesses that creates the jobs for our blue collar and middle class workforce. It’s all interrelated and a tough balance to achieve, as evidenced by the Senate having such a difficult time.”

Watch the exchange here:

The Senate health care bill itself is a large tax cut for the wealthy, cutting around $765 billion over the course of the next decade. But Brooks’ comments are in line with previous remarks he has made about health care coverage. In May, Brooks made headlines when he argued that pre-existing conditions are the price people pay for failing to live a healthy lifestyle.

At the time, Brooks said the GOP’s effort to overhaul the health care system would “allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool.” Brooks was defending changes made to the House of Representatives’ version of the health care bill, which gave providers room to effectively deny people with pre-existing conditions coverage, placing them in high-risk pools.

“That helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now those are the people — who’ve done things the right way — that are seeing their costs skyrocketing,” Brooks said.

The White House has attempted to spin the health care bill as “choosing not losing,” arguing that those who lose their insurance under the plan will actually be choosing to go without it.

While tweaks to the House bill helped the legislation pass that chamber earlier this year, the Senate’s bill has so far failed to advance. The latter’s bill does even less to help people with pre-existing conditions. That’s not completely surprising — Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) recently compared pre-existing conditions to a car crash, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has proposed an amendment that would allow insurers to offer policies that don’t cover pre-existing conditions, as long as they offer one plan compliant with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare.

But Brooks’ latest remarks do come at a precarious time for the latest version of Republicans’ health care effort, which has faltered in the Senate — and across the country. Not a single U.S. governor has fully endorsed the Senate bill; one poll from late June found only 17 percent of Americans support it. Senate Republicans are also fiercely divided, with both Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) insistent on coverage for pre-existing conditions, a notable step away from many of their colleagues. GOP senators from rural strongholds, including John Hoeven (ND), Chuck Grassley (IA), John Boozman (AR), and Bob Corker (TN), have also been slow to voice support, in large part because of the bill’s likely ramifications for their constituents.

Brooks himself indicated that the current draft of the bill is unlikely to make it out of the Senate, implying that the House might reject it.

“I’d be extraordinary surprised — if that’s the bill that actually comes out of the Senate,” he said. “So we’re talking about a Senate bill that we don’t know about because the Senate has not yet drafted it. And we’ll see whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Senate can do its job.”