With Republican health care reform efforts dead on arrival, a Democratic congressman is offering a horse trade — pass a minimum wage hike and Democrats will help Republicans with their other agenda items. Our new correspondent Lyndsay Christian is joined by Congressman Donald Norcross.
Christian: Thank you for joining us, Representative Norcross. So let’s talk health care, specifically what transpired last night. Two Senate Republicans said they wouldn’t support the current version of the health care overhaul bill after what’s been, as you know, seven years in the making to overturn. So, what exactly does this mean now for Republicans in their effort to repeal and replace Obamacare?
Norcross: Well certainly in the Senate, it appears that seven years of promises was all they did. No planning, because obviously it’s crashing and burning. It’s, you know, citizens care, people care about their health care, you just can’t rip it away from them. So I think they’re running back to the drawing board.
Christian: And you mentioned crashing and burning, so Sen. Mitch McConnell has outlined plans to repeal Obamacare. Do you think that’s a feasible plan in the House?
Norcross: Well, what they call the repeal and replace is bad. What they’re now suggesting is to rip health care away from everyone to literally destroy the system. I think he’s talking that way to get people’s attention, and he certainly has it, but it’s the wrong attention. It’s making people focus even more that the Republicans don’t care, don’t care about health care for people. And I think that’s what we’re waiting to see then as we speak.
Christian: Well, on the other hand, Sen. Chuck Schumer is saying Republicans should work together with Democrats to create a bill that would reform the Affordable Care Act, that would be a compromise for both sides, in opposition to what Mitch McConnell is saying, so given that proposal in the current political climate, do you think that would work?
Norcross: Well, I’ve said from the beginning, when I first had the honor of representing the 1st District, I’m coming here to make things work, whether it’s health care, jobs, or national security. Today, a group of our caucuses, what we call the New Dems, met with the Republican group called the Tuesday Group. People from the middle coming together saying how can we fix this? And that’s what we hope to do. We put together a series of proposals and we’re waiting to hear back. But right now the play is in the Senate, but it appears at some point it’s going to come back, and quite frankly we should work together.
Christian: So I know that you are passionate about working for the people. In fact, you co-sponsored a bill that would increase federal minimum wage to $15 an hour gradually over the next seven years, helping working families, as you mentioned. So, it has a widespread Democratic support. You’ve said this bill can be used as a bargaining tool per se on Republican priorities, that’s increasing the debt limit, cutting corporate taxes. How do you think this tactic could possibly work?
Norcross: Well, as you know, America hasn’t had a raise in almost eight years when it comes to the minimum wage. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 and our plan would take it so those who work full-time, work hard, can make it in America and not be in poverty, so that’s what our bill does. But, obviously it needs bipartisan support and that’s what we’re working on right now, because the debt limit is coming up, there’s a number of key issues that the Republicans will look to Democrats to get some help on. And my suggestion is what better way to help the economy, what better way to help working America, than to give them a raise? So that’s my efforts and my focus.
Christian: And I know that you are, again, very passionate about your efforts and Rep. Norcross, you said that if the bill gets to President Trump’s desk, there’s a chance he’d sign it. What makes you think that?
Norcross: Well, two things. Number one, he talked about it during the campaign. Now, obviously lots of things were discussed during the campaign, but the fact of the matter, I think and I would hope is that his advisors are telling him, America really does need a raise. It’s been eight years since minimum wage was raised, eight years, and it’s been almost a decade since we voted on it. So I think it’s incumbent upon the president, in the sense he represents the little guy, to sign this bill, because it would help. And by the way, the money that would be made on minimum wage isn’t going overseas or being stuck away in some foreign account. It’s being spent right here in the neighborhoods where they are, and I think that is a real stimulus that would help.
Christian: Right, thank you Rep. Norcross. So in closing, what do you think the focus of the Democratic Party should be as we’re inching toward the 2018 midterm elections?
Norcross: Well, it seems that everybody is always under election, but my focus since day one in public office is about jobs, making sure that those who work hard and play by the rules have the dignity of providing for your family. And it’s certainly education making sure it’s affordable, whether you’re going to college or to a trade school. And certainly national security, whether it’s in the nation or in our neighborhoods, we have to keep people safe.
Christian: Well, Rep. Norcross, we appreciate your time, we know that you are busy there in D.C. so we want to thank you.
Norcross: I appreciate it. You have a good day.