It was billed as a Chat with Brat.
Congressman Dave Brat (VA-7) arrived in Culpeper Tuesday afternoon for a scheduled conversation with the community. It was held at Moving Meadows Bakery on Davis Street, a place that Brat has visited before.
Roughly 50-60 filled the standing room only area.
Brat bought himself a cup of coffee and turned to the crowd thanking them all for coming to what he envisions as several of these informal visits to hear from his constituents.
“Let’s talk about the elephant in the room,” began Brat referring to the healthcare debacle. Many had already approached him about the subject hoping to hear his views.
Not a few sentences in, a group of women began heckling, laughing and contradicting his statement denying that America’s healthcare system was in collapse.
Brat reminded the audience that it was his intent to have a conversation but that he be allowed an opportunity for civil discourse and then would gladly take questions.
The room settled.
Brat, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, reiterated his pledge that Republicans made a promise to their constituents to repeal the collapsing Affordable Care Act, and the House Freedom Caucus is determined to help the President follow through on that promise.
Brat believes that a free market system will provide a solution.
When asked by one irate spectator what he could do to solve global discontent, he responded how he conducts himself.
“I don’t interrupt, I listen, I engage and I reach across the aisle in a Christian manner…I try to do my part to get along.”
The challenge of healthcare reform
Health premiums are anticipated to rise by 25-30 percent this year.
Brat made no excuses for Congress saying to the group that “neither party has solved” the healthcare debacle.
As with several other members in the House Freedom Caucus Brat came into office on a platform of principle vowing to adhere to his strong beliefs in fiscal conservatism and pulling the reins on an ever escalating debt.
Brat reiterated to the group that the federal government has $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities in mandatory entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security. Congress is tasked with coming up with a solution to address that.
House Freedom Caucus members were instrumental players in the failure to pass the latest revision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) but they are dedicated to helping craft a bill that will be effective. They aren’t interested in passing a bill for another entitlement program. They would rather design a program that has a good chance of success.
Brat’s position is that Obamacare – a federally run program – is now in collapse. He, along with members of the House Freedom Caucus, aren’t interested in replicating another system that doesn’t work.
For the federal government to provide and pay for healthcare requires facing statistics that both parties grapple with.
Brat shared a brief history lesson.
“With accountability to the big insurance companies…our first distortion from free markets happened with employer-provided health care,” said Brat, “they received benefits by providing that for their employees and employees didn’t have to worry about securing it elsewhere.”
“There hasn’t been competition for health care.”
Brat reminded the group that five percent of folks with pre-existing conditions make up 50 percent of healthcare costs.
He also reported that the feds have roughly $125 billion that could be directed to cover pre-existing conditions in any forthcoming health care reform bill.
Brat’s position on Medicaid expansion was another topic.
Currently, a number of senators would not support any plan that would call for rolling back Medicaid expansion.
Brat believes that Medicaid expansion could well be served at the state level – not all the funding would need to come at the federal level. He is an advocate for bringing government closer to the people it directly serves – at the state and local levels.
Jeffery Mitchell, owner of Culpeper Cheese Company on Davis Street, expressed concerns that retail is suffering particularly for small businesses and that technology, “as a driving force,” is putting a lot of folks out of work.
Shopping at Walmart and Target with automated checkout systems hurts smaller retailers who hire staff to perform those functions.
“What about taxing technology (these large companies) that are replacing jobs?” he asked.
“I know…this is an issue of fairness,” said Brat admitting that such a tax wouldn’t be practical but certainly looking at import taxes and how they affect the supply chain of goods was a good place to begin making adjustments.
Ed Dunphy, who works for CFC Farm and Home Center, doesn’t want the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to suffer.
“After some 60 years on this earth, I remain concerned about the quality of our air and water..if you pull the teeth out of EPA,” said Dunphy, “what will happen?”
Brat has had to dispel notions before that his party is against having a quality environment.
“Rich people like clean air and water,” said Brat, “it’s better for the economy, it’s better for everyone.”
Identifying herself has a veteran and a small farmer, another woman voiced similar concerns. She is a great supporter of the EPA and the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), agencies that she depends on to help her sustain growing food for her family and friends.
But not everyone in the room was a fan of the EPA.
Richardsville resident, Kurt Christenson, is a landowner who owns a tree farm. “EPA is my enemy,” he voiced.
“For me it stands for Eliminate Private Agriculture,” said Christenson who feels burdened and challenged by federal regulations.
Brat stayed in Culpeper for more than an hour with several stops planned after that. He left on a positive note.