Dreier: I Want To Do Things In A Bipartisan Way
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
The last time Republicans led the conversation in the House of Representatives, their more powerful members included David Dreier of California. For years he led the Rules Committee, which determines how a bill is debated, voted on or amended. Those details often affect legislation and politics and power.
Representative DAVID DREIER (Republican, California): I was very proud to have been chairman of the House Rules Committee, and we were able to do a lot of things, but I regularly wanted more open debate, an opportunity for bipartisanship to proceed through regular order on the House floor. I could have done better.
INSKEEP: Having conceded that, David Dreier contends the Democrats did much worse when they took over in 2006. After this month's election, Dreier is about to return to his position as Rules Committee chairman. When we met him at the Capitol yesterday, he said he wants to be more open, more inclusive, even bipartisan.
Rep. DREIER: It's very important to recognize that we want to use the Rules Committee to ensure that more members can have the opportunity to participate and that we focus on this challenge that we have on trying to reduce the size and scope of government.
INSKEEP: In a broader sense, is it in your party's interest right now to pass bipartisan legislation that the president would get to sign before the 2012 election?
Rep. DREIER: Absolutely, because I'm an American before I'm a Republican. There were some people who said gosh, as the campaign proceeded, why don't we just come close to winning the majority but not quite do it so that we can blame them for everything? And my response was, this country can't wait two years. You know what? I really want to do things in a bipartisan way.
INSKEEP: Even if it means that President Obama's reelection is enhanced...
Mr. DREIER: Well, it's interesting. I will tell you, one of the things that I said, Steve, is that one of my goals is to make President Obama a better president. And the way to make him a better president is have him move to the center and become more of a - recognizing that the United States of America is a center-right nation.
INSKEEP: If he moves in your direction, are you going to be politically - and I'm speaking of Republicans collectively - politically in a position to move in his direction as well?
Mr. DREIER: Well, I think that we can find areas of agreement. And I know that we are determined to do everything that we can to make that possible as long as we don't forget the mandate that came from the election.
INSKEEP: Should efforts to repeal the health care law or to hamstring the law in some way dominate the news over the next couple of years?
Mr. DREIER: We believe that a government takeover of a large percentage of the U.S. economy impinges on job creation. We believe that replacing the health care law that was passed is in the interest of our goal of creating jobs and reducing the size and scope of government. So clearly is a very important part of this overall vision that we have.
INSKEEP: Well, it's interesting that you mention that, because you described a takeover of health care. There was a report from a Wall Street research firm just in the last couple of days on small businesses - businesses with fewer than 10 employees - which found that they now get this tax credit because of the health care law to help them buy health insurance, not from the government but on the private market, and that over the last year 14 percent more of them - a significant increase, and now a significant majority of small businesses of that size - have health insurance. Is that something you want to repeal?
Mr. DREIER: What we believe is that associated health plans, which is the vision the small business community has put together, so that they can pool together to get lower insurance rates, coupled with the purchase of insurance across state lines, making sure that we have meaningful lawsuit abuse reform, doing everything that we can to allow for pooling to deal with preexisting conditions, and expanding medical savings accounts, would do more for those small businesses than this law that has been passed.
INSKEEP: So given that the law is there, I mean, what do you with it? What do you do with the portions of this that would seem beneficial to people...
Mr. DREIER: We have said all along that we want to make sure that provisions there that are in fact beneficial in ensuring the people have access without a huge expansion of government, we don't want a repeal; we want to make sure that we have the opportunity to take these very, very market-driven proposals that I've just gone through and have those put in place.
INSKEEP: One other thing, Congressman Dreier - one way to look at the 2006 election, when Republicans lost control of Congress, might be that the public ran out of patience with Republicans. One way to look at this fall's election would be that after four years the public ran out of patience with Democrats. How much time do you think you have? You're holding up two fingers.
Mr. DREIER: Two years. I think that we have to work and we have to deliver in the next two years.
INSKEEP: Congressman Dreier, thanks very much.
Mr. DREIER: Always good to be with you, Steve. Thanks.
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INSKEEP: David Dreier is the next chairman of the House Rules Committee.
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