MORRIS – U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, was in Morris to talk about infrastructure with a roundtable of locals on Friday afternoon.
This was part of a series of appearances in the 16th Congressional District that Kinzinger had last week. Herald-News reporter Alex Ortiz sat down with him to talk about some of the biggest political issues of the day and what he feels about the current national political climate.
Ortiz: What are the kinds of things you’re hearing from your constituents as you travel around the district this week?
Kinzinger: Health care is on people’s minds. They want to know what the future is. People are starting to talk a little about tax reform and what does that look like.
All in all, I hear more disappointment with Springfield than D.C.
I’m hearing a lot about the tax increase that happened. I think all in all people are feeling more optimistic, but there are still a lot of big problems out there.
Ortiz: On health care, what do you think the chances are of a bipartisan solution coming about in Congress?
Kinzinger: It’s hard to tell what chances (there are). I think it will depend a lot on leadership and what the president ultimately decides because he has to sign bills. I think it’s a good start to have a conversation.
Look, I’m still a supporter of repeal and replace (the Affordable Care Act), but I think realistically that seems to have failed.
So now instead of watching this thing fail, which it is, I think we need to realize these are real people’s lives it affects. So the caucus got together and came up with some very basic and pretty easy fixes to make it better and my hope is it catches fire.
I don’t think you’re going to see much development until we go back in September and it’ll depend on whether the Senate can come up with some magical solution that they haven’t been able to yet.
But I’m hoping this catches fire.
I don’t want to be overly optimistic, but I think having these conversations and finding areas of bipartisan agreement is essential in this environment.
Ortiz: Obviously, health care is very complicated and there are a lot of areas you’d like to fix, but what are areas you are most looking to improve?
Kinzinger: One of the things we could fix is the back end. There’s a lot of focus on the insurance market itself, which is essential and what our bill did which is try to fix that, take Medicaid to its intended purpose.
But in the back end, we need to have some more consumerism in terms of knowing what you’re getting and how much it costs.
If you go to the hospital today and you say, “How much is it to fix my broken arm?” They say, “Well what’s your deductible.”
That’s not the question you ask.
You say how much is it. You don’t know and so you can’t shop as a consumer because you don’t know how much things cost and the hospital may not even know what they’ve negotiated with the insurance company.
I think trying to wrestle with the issue of the high cost of prescription drugs, I don’t have the answer to how to fix that. We want to continue to be the nation that innovates and brings cures to people, but there’s an extremely high cost to these things and we’re spending a lot.
So how are we fixing that? Whether it’s through negotiations or generics or other issues. The other part people aren’t talking about is more of a focus on preventative medicine so people don’t get sick in the first place. [It’s] better for quality of life. It’s cheaper for the government. And teaching kids healthy lifestyles, eating well, exercising, things like that. This is going to pay off I think in the long run and I think also with technology coming, we’re going to see this cost curve bend down in a good way.
Ortiz: What kind of sense are you getting from your Republican colleagues about them really trying to come to the table with Democrats and getting bipartisan solutions on health care?
Kinzinger: I think, if you talk to them privately, yeah. We’d still love to get repeal and replace, I want to be clear about that. But, at the point, we realize it’s not going to happen. I think you’ll see more of a hunger to get something like this done because I haven’t talked to anybody who’s fundamentally comfortable with watching the system fail despite the President’s tweets. I think we need to realize this has a big impact. I think whenever that sweet spot or that time is, I don’t know when that’s going to be, I can’t predict it, hopefully we can get some traction.
Ortiz: You recently did an interview on CNN about the President’s tweets about barring transgender service members from the military. You had a distinguished career in the military. You said you wanted to see when the military study on the matter was completed about whether you’d support them serving?
Kinzinger: Yeah, so when it comes to issues like this, the same way we integrated gay and lesbian and bisexual soldiers to be able to serve openly, there was a study by the DOD (Department of Defense) done in terms of what is the impact. The study said this would be just fine and we went ahead with that policy and I think it was the right decision to make. On this issue, I said that I don’t support the taxpayers funding the transition surgery during their time in service for a couple reasons. The issue is you have somebody who’s going to be taken out of service during that time and, if you have a two or a four year enlistment, that’s an issue. But in terms of transgender soldiers actually serving, I want to see what the Pentagon has to say. My prediction is they’re going to say this isn’t going to be a problem.
Ortiz: And you’ll be OK with that?
Ortiz: How do you navigate the extremely polarized nature of politics these days? You seem to have a bit of an independent streak, especially when it comes to voicing your concerns about Russia.
Kinzinger: I try to. I didn’t get into this job because it’s particularly fun. I don’t do this because I’m in love with the title. For me, it’s I want to make a difference. I want to make an impact and I think right now the time to make an impact is with our tone and talking about the fact that we’re Americans. We can have great debates and we should have great debates but you don’t have to hate somebody. Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t have to end because Uncle Jim’s a Democrat or a Republican, and that’s the problem we’ve gotten to. It’s gone from we all kinda see ourselves as Americans to I identify with only Republicans and if somebody’s a Democrat then they want to destroy humanity or Republicans want to kill everybody that doesn’t have health care. It’s this kind of outrageous talk that I think leads to shooters showing up in Washington, D.C., because there are people that are mentally ill that sometimes hear what we would see as hyperbole, and they take it legitimately, both sides of the aisle. So I’ve committed to saying I’m going to tone down my rhetoric. I’m going to be heated and passionate about the issues I’m fighting for, but I’m not going to be personal. Have I made that mistake in the past? Sure I have. I’m sure I’ll make it again, but I’m going to do everything I can to not. So how I navigate those issues, I just stand up and say what I think, what I believe, listen to people and if they like me, great, if they don’t, that’s their choice.