When you sent me to Congress to serve as your representative, I attended the new member orientation, which was a great opportunity to meet new colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
As we met and shared our vision for the country, we agreed to try to work together as much as possible and find common ground among Republicans and Democrats. So we signed a civility pledge and formed a nonpartisan caucus.
You might not read it in the news, learn about it on cable television or hear it on the radio, but during the first seven months of my term, I’ve been working across the aisle to find that common ground, and so have others. Recently, the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of more than 40 lawmakers that I joined, proposed a set of health care priorities.
While the Senate was unable to advance the goal of repealing and replacing “Obamacare,” I believe it’s necessary to continue efforts to relieve the American people of “Obamacare’s” burdensome costs, regulations and uncertainty. The health care system is broken — that hasn’t changed in the last seven months — but simply letting American families’ health care collapse would be unacceptable.
Problem Solvers Caucus is presenting a path forward to stabilize the insurance marketplace, repeal onerous taxes and regulations, and ensure affordable, quality care. These critical areas of bipartisan agreement start fixing our broken health care system.
The caucus’s proposals, as outlined in a statement by co-chairs Reps. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., and Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., are as follows:
1. “Bring cost-sharing reduction payments under the Congressional oversight and appropriations process, but ensure they have mandatory funding.”
2. “Create a dedicated stability fund that states can use to reduce premiums and limit losses for providing coverage —especially for those with pre-existing conditions.”
3. “Adjust the employer mandate by raising the threshold on the requirement for employers to provide insurance under the employer mandate to businesses of 500 employees or more” (the threshold is now 50). Additionally, define “full time” under the employer mandate as a work week of 40 hours.
4. Repeal the medical device tax, which adds a 2.3 percent sales tax on medical device supplies.
5. “Provide technical changes and clear guidelines for states that want to innovate on the (ACA) exchange or enter into regional compacts to improve coverage and create more options for consumers.”
I’d still like to see “Obamacare’s” individual mandate repealed and would like to put an end to more of the law’s costly taxes. But why not take the first steps to fix the employer mandate and end the medical device tax? These two areas of agreement will have a large, positive impact on small businesses and lower the cost of things like pacemakers, stents and artificial joints for consumers.
Washington has enough people unwilling to talk to each other. The American people are still waiting for —and deserve — solutions. When the Problem Solvers Caucus meets, we aren’t Republicans or Democrats. We’re a room full of lawmakers putting our constituents first and working together toward commonsense solutions.
But this kind of effort — bipartisan action to help American families — isn’t new. Here are a few more examples:
— The House unanimously passed legislation I co-sponsored to strengthen career and technical education nationwide — a direct investment in schools like Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences, and others. These schools prepare students for good-paying, family-sustaining jobs that are in demand and available now.
— The House recently passed sanctions against Iran, North Korea and Russia with bipartisan support of more than 400 House members. It passed the Senate and was signed into law last week.
— The House passed multiple bipartisan bills to crack down on human trafficking — increasing protections for victims and toughening penalties for traffickers.
— The House and Senate passed a bill with broad support on both sides of the aisle that overhauls the Department of Veterans Affairs to deliver better care to our veterans. This bill has been signed into law.
In keeping my promise of civility and working to get things done, I’ve also personally worked in a bipartisan fashion. I introduced the bipartisan Susquehanna National Heritage Area Act to help preserve the natural beauty of our community.
I also teamed up with Rep. Terri Sewell, a Democrat from Alabama, to pass legislation making it easier for foster children to be placed in the home of a family member. Our bill received broad bipartisan support.
In fact, of the 100 bills I have co-sponsored, 82 of them have support from both Republicans and Democrats. I know I won’t always agree with my colleagues. But that’s good because the purpose of the House is to be a deliberative body with a wide range of views across the political spectrum. We are supposed to, and in fact even expected to, disagree. But we should do so in a civil and respectful manner.
As a governing conservative, I am committed to the principles of limited government, free enterprise and opportunity for each and every Pennsylvanian and American. In order to make our government more efficient, effective and accountable, I’m listening to all points of view from both constituents and colleagues and working to find creative solutions to complex problems. And that includes health care.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker of Lancaster County represents Pennsylvania’s 16th Congressional District.