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Representative Biggs: 'There is Still Time to Fix this Broken Institution'
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19 September 2017   Representative Andy Biggs

The House Freedom Caucus is not the problem.

Karl Rove's recent column blaming the House Freedom Caucus for Washington dysfunction was wrong and misguided. It is unfortunate that he has chosen to exert this swamp-like influence.

Contrary to Rove's piece, the House Freedom Caucus does not exist to obstruct our leadership. Rather, we do our best to listen to our constituents and fight for what they believe in. We are not beholden to our party or even to each other, but to our constituents alone. This virtue was once celebrated, but somehow became the enemy in recent years.

Having never been elected to public office, Rove may not understand this responsibility.

To make matters worse, Rove simplifies the ludicrously complicated and self-imposed parliamentary process known as budget reconciliation, which Congress attempted to use to repeal Obamacare earlier this year and which it still hopes to use to pass tax reform. Republicans do not have the 60 votes required to avoid a Senate filibuster under regular order, and fear of crossing party lines dooms most legislation from garnering any Democratic votes.

By contrast, reconciliation rules allow Obamacare repeal or tax reform legislation to be attached to the fiscal year budget, which merely requires a majority vote to pass the Senate. However, reconciliation is far from a silver bullet, because any legislation passed under this process must be deemed "revenue neutral" by an unelected parliamentarian and fulfill dozens of other byzantine requirements.

Not surprisingly, the tactic of using reconciliation to pass Obamacare repeal through reconciliation failed because it placed legislators in a straightjacket. Instead of crafting legislation that voters requested, House and Senate negotiators offered a package designed to fit arbitrary Senate rules. Their policy fell well short of a full repeal of Obamacare's regulatory structure and received only tepid support in our own caucus.

That was how reconciliation played out for Obamacare repeal. Using this strategy to pass tax reform may work only marginally better.

What many people do not realize is that the current reconciliation prospects for tax reform are actually tied to Obamacare repeal. The drafters of the 2018 budget, to which tax reform will be attached, assumed that Obamacare would be fully repealed and factored projected savings from the repeal into the budget to achieve revenue neutrality. Of course, Congress didn't repeal Obamacare, so what we are left with is a budget that no longer reflects reality and which could limit our options for crafting pro-growth tax reform.

Meanwhile, we have been talking about tax reform all year, but have yet to see specific legislation. We have good ideas and great intentions, but a severe lack of details to show the public and to inform our vote.

My colleagues and I share Rove's frustration with the inaction on healthcare and tax reform. But contrary to Rove's statement, it was the House Freedom Caucus that provided a block of votes to support leadership's healthcare repeal and replace bill. We have taken great care to debate policy and strategy, not to undercut our fellow members.

Instead of directing his frustrations at a group of members who are working hard for solutions, Rove should set his sights on the failing institution of Congress. If not for the Senate's filibuster and failed reconciliation tactics, we might already have repealed Obamacare and made tremendous progress on tax reform.

Rove's comments are counterproductive and I hope in the future he will use his influence to be part of the solution. There is still time to fix this broken institution and keep the promises we made to the American people.

Rep. Andy Biggs represents Arizona's 5th Congressional District. Rep. Dave Brat represents Virginia's 7th Congressional District. Rep. Trent Franks represents Arizona’s 8th Congressional District. Rep. Paul Gosar represents Arizona's 4th Congressional District. All four are Republicans and members of the House Freedom Caucus