As a relatively junior Democrat in a Republican-dominated Congress, 1st District Rep. David Cicilline says he finds it “very frustrating” that a significant portion of the GOP “are not moving forward anything we need to get done,” in terms of the important issues facing the country.
Instead, he says, “they seem very focused on passing bills that are used to communicate a message and speak to the most extreme members of their party, knowing that the bill in the form that they pass it is not going to be taken up by the Senate or is promised to be vetoed by the president.”
The most notable such issue is the one that is named for the president – Obamacare – which the House has voted to repeal 40 times, with less than a handful of Democrats voting yes.
Cicilline says he doesn’t believe the GOP’s current stratagem – not appropriating any money to implement the law – will work.
“This is an issue which has appeal to the very far right of the Republican caucus, particularly Tea Party members,” he said during a visit to The Times newsroom. “This is a very complicated reform of a very complicated system.
“There are great things happening: 30 million Americans will have coverage who didn’t; young people will get to stay on their parents’ plan until they are 26-years-old; seniors are seeing prescription drug prices falling because the doughnut hole is closing (the doughnut hole is a gap in coverage once seniors on Medicare Part D reach a certain amount of drug costs under the program); we’ve eliminated the lifetime cap on coverage, which is really important to people with a chronic disease or illness; we are ending discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, and we are opening the (health insurance) exchanges so we can bend the cost curve and drive down the cost of health care,” Cicilline said.
“What we should have spent the last three years on is implementing Obamacare and then be willing to figure out what we need to modify or improve it, tweaks we need to make so it really works right for everyone,” he added. “We haven’t had a single conversation about that, because instead they want to repeal the whole thing. That is irresponsible. It is the law of the land, there is no chance it is going to be repealed as long as the president is in the White House and the Democrats control the Senate. So why not work to be sure it is implemented in the way that best serves the interests of the American people?”
The problem, the second-term congressman says, is “a group of people who seem to regard compromise as a dirty word and say things that reflect their intention not to reach common ground.
“You never get 100 percent of what you want in life,” Cicilline said. “That’s not the way the world works. You hopefully make progress toward an important goal, but life is full of compromises. Sometimes you listen to these extreme members of the Tea Party and you wonder, how do they navigate a marriage or a friendship or a work relationship? What we have seen is a number of examples of their unwillingness to compromise and their commitment to a certain ideology has paralyzed Congress.”
Part of what frustrates him, Cicilline said, “You have expectations that Congress is going to do things to improve people’s lives, because you have confidence that we have the ability to do that in this country – our national government can take certain actions which will help to create jobs, which will improve education, which will secure people’s retirement and all those things government does.
“But we’re dealing with people who actually get to go back to their districts and say: ‘It’s another week and we jammed them up, we stuck a stick in the spokes of government’ and they are cheered because (their constituents) view government so negatively and they don’t value the positive things we can do. They go home and they claim victory.”
One of the positive things Cicilline believes government can do is revive manufacturing in the United States and, by extension, Rhode Island.
In a much-ballyhooed economic speech two weeks ago, President Obama put forward the idea of manufacturing community partnerships, and Cicilline would like to snag one of those for Rhode Island.
“I don’t know that there is another place in the country that is better suited to a designation for this community partnership site than Rhode Island,” he said. “We have a very rich history of manufacturing, we have tremendous assets that are still here in terms of workforce and facilities, and we are doing a lot of manufacturing. We have great universities, institutes of higher learning hospitals, that are really helping to fuel the innovation around new and advanced manufacturing that is growing out of new technologies and discovery of new processes.
“When you look at the president’s initiative and the whole Make it in America agenda, which is designed to support and grow manufacturing in this country, that would be a tremendous benefit for Rhode Island, we have the Chafee Center (for International Business) at Bryant, the Rhode Island Manufacturing Extension Service, RIPEC (RI Public Expenditure Council), the Economic Development Corp., all at the table. We created this kind of manufacturers’ working group to position us in a way to compete,” he said.
“Rhode Island absolutely should be, and I expect it will be one of the partnership sites.”
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