The legislation would reduce mandatory minimums for certain drug offenses and largely ban solitary confinement for juveniles.
The Conservative lobbying group, Heritage Action for America, remains firmly opposed to any deal in DC that leaves what it calls, “the fundamental flaws” of the Affordable Health Care act intact.
Heritage Action for America has played a key role in the government shutdown and the impasse over raising the debt ceiling.
In an email yesterday, the group blasted a House Republican plan to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government saying, “the proposed plan will do absolutely nothing to help Americans who are negatively impacted by Obama Care.”
That email is widely credited with sinking the House plan before it could get to a vote.
The proposal advancing in Congress today leaves Obamacare essentially intact.
Heritage Action’s Dan Holler told Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson that the new healthcare law is “hurting people.”
“[There are] stories that come out everyday in the paper of people having six, seven, eight hundred dollars a month in new health insurance cost that they can’t afford, how they’re having their hours cut back at work, how their spouses are losing coverage,” Holler said.
Holler says Heritage Action is going to continue fighting the law.
“This isn’t the end of it,” Holler said. “I think a lot of folks are hoping to say, ‘You guys had your fun, now just go off and we’ll just ignore this.’ We can’t ignore it.”
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
And I imagine a lot of Americans are happy to hear signs of a deal in Washington, but here is a perspective on today's news that's a bit different: Senate ignores America, undercuts the House. That is the word from the conservative lobbying group Heritage Action for America, which opposed any deal on the debt ceiling and the government shutdown that left the Affordable Care Act intact.
An email from that group is widely credited with sinking a House Republican plan yesterday before it could get to the floor for a vote, but the proposal advancing in Congress today leaves the Affordable Care Act essentially intact, as Rick just said. Dan Holler is communications director for Heritage Action for America. He joins us now from Washington. Dan, welcome.
DAN HOLLER: Hey, thanks a lot. How are you?
HOBSON: Doing well. So did Heritage Action lose this fight?
HOLLER: You know, Washington tends to be focused on who won, who lost, who's up, who's down. That's really the wrong focus. And I'm sort of struck by a story from yesterday. I talked to a guy who's an independent contractor. He does camera work. He told me that his family is going to have to pay $800 a month in new health insurance costs because of Obamacare.
That's really what this whole thing is about. So it would be irresponsible not to have tried to do something on Obamacare. And let's be clear. This isn't the end of it. I think a lot of folks are hoping to say, well, you know, you guys had your fun, now go off and we'll just ignore this. We can't ignore it.
This law is hurting the American people right now, and if you care about folks at all and the impact it's having on them, you're sort of compelled to try to take action and change the law.
HOBSON: But you could say, of course, that the government shutdown is hurting people. It's hurting federal workers. It's hurting people who had planned trips to national parks. It's hurting people who are waiting for clinical trials and things like that. Didn't your action on this issue and your push to try to defund Obamacare in exchange for shutting down the government and not raising the debt ceiling potentially also hurt people?
HOLLER: This is one of the amazing things, is that House Republicans have shown a tremendous willingness to keep the government open. Every single thing you just mentioned the House Republicans passed a bill to fund, and Harry Reid and the Senate stopped that from happening. President Obama threatened to veto it because they are so committed to Obamacare that they don't want to open parts of government.
I mean, that is an outrageous thing. Not only are people being hurt by the law that they all passed, it is their signature legislation, but they refused to open parts of government.
HOBSON: Well, they refused to open parts of government but because they wanted to open the whole thing.
HOLLER: Yeah, they wanted to open the whole thing, including Obamacare, and you know, that was a red line for a lot of members of Congress. It was a demand that they heard from their constituents over their August recess, and their constituents said, hey, when you guys go back to Washington, D.C., you have to fight to defund Obamacare, and they listened.
That is an incredibly empowering thing in a representative democracy. Now, the problem is that the Senate and the Obama administration didn't get that message, and there's a lot of work to do, but the fact is that the House acted responsibly, and they showed tremendous unity throughout this whole thing. And you know, hopefully we can expect more from the Senate in the future.
HOBSON: But we've been talking to economists who are extremely concerned about what has just happened here, which is that the U.S. has faced the prospect of a default on its debt which could have ripples across the world. People have said it would be worse than 2008. Aren't you worried about what has been done here as a result of your push and Republicans' push to defund a law that was passed and upheld by the Supreme Court?
HOLLER: Well, again, the House Republicans offered to increase the debt ceiling, and President Obama said no. And pretty much at every single turn, the story is the same, that the president says no, and he has refused to come to the table, he's refused to negotiate...
HOBSON: Well, but you have said no to a law that, as we said, was passed and was in place. I mean, the reason that we're in this situation is because your group and Republicans wanted to defund a law.
HOLLER: We wanted to have the House use their constitutional authority to control the power of the purse, and I think that's a completely reasonable thing. There is this notion in Washington, D.C., that because President Obama is in the White House, that he gets to dictate terms, and everybody has to fall in line. That's not the system of government we have. But if that's the system of government that the president thinks we should have, he needs to go out there and be very clear that our Constitution is wrong and should be amended.
He needs to be very clear that he doesn't think we should have a debt ceiling, that we shouldn't have annual appropriation bills. He needs to be clear that he doesn't think that our country is set up the right way. And if he wants to make that case to the American people, more power to him. I don't think it's going to go over well. But you should not blame - he should not blame House Republicans for representing their constituents.
HOBSON: Are you going to push for another fight if this get pushed back and the debt ceiling is raised through let's say February or January? Are you going to do the same thing again?
HOLLER: Yeah, I mean I think it's too early to tell how all this stuff plays out. But the idea that the fight over Obamacare will just sort of go away I think is foolish. There are real concerns about what's happening, and it's stories that come out every day in the paper of people having, you know, $600, $700, $800 a month in new health insurance costs that they can't afford, how they're having their hours cut back at work, how their spouses are losing coverage.
These things are really difficult to ignore, yet the Obama administration is walking onward like none of this stuff is happening. And that's, you know, not even talking about the problem they've had rolling out their exchanges.
HOBSON: Dan, I just want to ask you, because I'm sure that there are some people who are listening to this who agree with you that they don't like the health care law, and they don't think it should be the law of the land, as it is. But there are also going to be people who say why are they so concerned about a law that we don't really know the impact of yet, that some people are saying that their premiums are lower now. Some people have access to health insurance and didn't before.
HOLLER: Yeah, there's sort of this notion that the health care system was working before, and I think you'd be hard pressed to find anybody who said the pre-Obamacare system was great and didn't need improvement. It definitely needed improvement. There are huge problems with it.
But the idea that we passed a law in this country that is forcing premiums to go higher, in some cases so high that people are just giving up on coverage and saying I can't afford insurance, that's a terrible thing that the government has caused this sort of dislocation among folks. And that's something that needs to be addressed.
So you can say absolutely the previous system was broken, no doubt about it, but the idea that we don't know the impact of what this law is doing, you know, these aren't just sort of anecdotes, as Secretary Sebelius says. These are real people being hurt. So let's find a way to fix the health care system, absolutely, but I think it's pretty clear that this isn't the way to do it.
HOBSON: Dan Holler is communications director for Heritage Action for America. Dan, thanks so much for joining us today.
HOLLER: Hey, thanks a lot, appreciate it, Jeremy.
MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI, HOST:
Well, now that we're going just down to the wire, and it seems as if the Senate does have a deal to avoid hitting that debt ceiling, what do you think? What do you think of this last-second deal? Let us know at Facebook.com/hereandnowradio. Stay with us, HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.