Click the picture above to watch my speech on the House floor for Sexual Assault Awareness month.

NATO Visit

Recently, I accompanied House Speaker Paul Ryan as part of a bipartisan congressional delegation to meet with key European partners, with the goal of strengthening economic and security ties with our NATO Allies. Traveling to Norway, the United Kingdom, Poland, and Estonia, we met with government officials and military leaders to review and discuss evolving security threats facing Europe as well as opportunities for greater economic cooperation.

We began our four-nation visit in Norway where we met with Prime Minister Erna Solberg and other top government leaders to reaffirm our strong transatlantic alliance.  Norway, an important U.S. ally, plays a critical security role guarding NATO’s northern flank and recently increased spending on defense.  Norway is concerned about the increased presence and aggression of Russia in the Artic region and it is important for us to work with Norway to help them strengthen defenses against Russia. 

On the second and final day in Norway, our delegation traveled north to tour military installations, met with U.S. and Norwegian military personnel, and saw first-hand the longstanding military-to-military relationship between our two countries.  We spent time with American Marines deployed to Norway for cold weather training and joint military exercises before we visited Vaernes Air Station and the Norwegian National Joint Headquarters, where we witnessed how Norway serves as the eyes and ears of the northern flank in support of NATO.

In London, our delegation met with United Kingdom (UK) Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and made it clear that no matter the shifting politics in the UK, the special relationship between our two nations will be as strong as ever. We also discussed economic issues and reasserted the importance of the NATO alliance.

Following the meeting, Secretary Johnson gave us a personal tour of the Churchill War Room used during WWII.  Churchill, one of the preeminent leaders of the 20th century, used the bunker during the dark days of the German blitz, and the attacks on the cities of Great Britain.

The delegation held separate meetings with the Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond and Secretary for International Trade Liam Fox.  We have had a special relationship with the UK since WWII and we have an opportunity to build upon this and make it even stronger.  Forging a bilateral trade deal with the British following BREXIT should be one of our top priorities and it would serve both countries well.

We then traveled to Poland and met with their nation’s President, Andrzej Duda, and Prime Minister Beata Szydlo.  Poland already spends over 2.0% of their GDP on defense and are in process of raising it to 2.5%.  They have become NATO leaders working with their neighbors to improve deterrence.  They made clear to me that they would like permanent American forces stationed in Poland to remove ambiguity of our close partnership.

Finally, we visited Estonia and met with President Kersti Kaljulaid and other leaders.  They are proud to be a nation that has embraced democratic and free enterprise principles, and they are a great success story in the Baltics.  Russia regularly conducts cyber attacks against Estonia and has been hostile on their borders.  They have also expressed a strong desire to have permanent U.S. forces as a deterrence against Russian aggression and possible incursions like in Ukraine. 

Why I supported the AHCA

Recently, House Republicans passed the first phase in our plan to repeal and replace the disastrous Affordable Care Act. Since taking this office, I have made a promise to all my constituents to combat the federal government’s central-planning of our healthcare market. If we want to drive down costs, we need to get Big Government out of the way, and I believe the American Health Care Act to be that first step.

Since this plan is being implemented through a budget reconciliation, there are several key provisions of which, unfortunately, cannot be included. Policies such as allowing for competition across states lines, allowing small-business to band together to purchase group plans, and FDA reform must be handled through separate pieces of legislation, and I can assure you that we will.

Alongside my colleagues in the House, we will be engaging in robust and open debate regarding this plan and will address concerns with the current bill to drive down prices for all Americans.

Within the proposed legislation, I support the refundable, advanceable, age-based tax credits; the repealing of numerous, burdensome taxes, including the individual and employer mandates; the reassurance that those with pre-existing conditions will still have access to coverage; the absence of lifetime caps; allowing young adults under 26 to stay on their parent’s plans; and the two-year extension that we promised, to ensure a smooth transition to our patient-centered system.

Despite the claims of many in the media, recent Amendments to the AHCA strengthened coverage for those with preexisting conditions.

The MacArthur amendment allows each state to request waivers on how they will support essential health benefits, but the only way to do so is for each state to provide evidence that they can handle these provisions better than the federal government. In section 136 of the AHCA, the amendment clearly states that no state can opt-out of ensuring coverage for those with preexisting conditions. The Department of Health and Human Services have 60 days to approve or deny the waiver.

Many worry that those with pre-existing conditions, while having access to coverage, will not be able to afford their coverage. That is where the tax-credits, State Stability Funds, and Invisible Risk Sharing programs come in to play. There is $115 billion, over 10 years, allotted through the State Stability Funds to allow states the flexibility to lower costs for those who have pre-existing conditions.  Additionally, the Upton-Long Amendment adds another $8 billion dedicated solely to help lower premiums and deductibles for those with pre-existing conditions.

The Palmer-Schweikert amendment continued this trend and allotted $15 billion over 10 years to allow states to incorporate Invisible Risk Sharing programs. This program is modeled after Maine’s healthcare system, and effectively masks those with pre-existing conditions, and adds federal dollars, to push down prices. The result is those with pre-existing conditions will pay roughly the same price as those without pre-existing conditions for the same plans.

The last amendment presented to the AHCA was done so by Rep. Fred Upton, in conjunction with Rep. Billy Long. The amendment allotted an extra $8 billion to help cover those with pre-existing conditions.

Couple with this programs, the AHCA’s advanceable, refundable, age-based tax credit will provide another level of assistance to those who need help ensuring they can afford their insurance premiums.

We are committed to ensuring coverage for those who need it most. That is why we have put such an emphasis on providing for those with pre-existing conditions. It is also why we have made such great reforms to Medicaid. The program is on a collision course and will eventually get to the point where we cannot afford to fund it. We must ensure that it is on a practical budget to ensure that is will always be there for those who depend on it most.

As of now, a third of all counties in the United States only have a single health insurance plan. This lack of competition is why we have seen a trend of ever-increasing premiums. Last year, Nebraskans saw a 51 percent increase in premiums. This path is unsustainable and we must act now.

However, this process has still only just begun. Our friends in the Senate must engage in the same process. I look forward to and encourage ongoing debate on this issue. When signed into law, the final product, will be a significant improvement to the unaffordable ACA.

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