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KENT -- A bipartisan approach may be the only viable avenue toward consensus on healthcare reform, as the crafting of the GOP's Senate bill is "even worse than how the Affordable Care Act evolved," says U.S. Congressman Dave Joyce (R, OH-14).
"The Republican version is just that -- a Republican version," said Joyce, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee. Joyce voted against the House version of the healthcare bill in May.
"The ACA is going to fail ... it's set up to fail," he said. "But the House bill was too partisan. Speaker [Paul] Ryan has some good policies, but I told him, 'Your policies are not good for my district.' There was nothing in the House bill, and there is nothing in this Senate bill, that is going to bring down the cost of healthcare."
Joyce, who maintains a satellite office in Twinsburg Government Center, talked healthcare reform, protection of the Great Lakes, military preparedness and Veterans Affairs during a July 5 visit to GateHouse Media's Kent office, meeting with several editors for about an hour.
All issues could benefit from improved political discourse, which has reached a "vitriolic" level nationwide, Joyce said.
"I do know there's a level of frustration out there," he said. "But we need to work together. [President Donald Trump] has gotten into this tug-of-war with the national media. Now we're six months into his presidency ... and infrastructure improvements, tax changes and healthcare law are not getting covered. They are dealing with the Tweet du Jour ... and [Trump's tweets] certainly don't help."
In further reference to the president's tweets, Joyce encouraged a more influential role for Vice President Mike Pence.
"I'd tell the president to put the phone down, go golfing and stay out of there. Let Pence run the show," Joyce said.
Throughout meetings on the House healthcare bill, Joyce said he suggested public hearings with [Cleveland Clinic president and CEO] Dr. Toby Cosgrove and other health professionals to help design a plan that reduced costs. But such hearings with experts never came to fruition, and much of the Senate version was then designed behind closed doors in GOP-only meetings.
"All we're doing is shifting premiums," Joyce said. "We need to set a course ... and find something that's good for all Americans."
Protection of the Great Lakes, which comprise 95 percent of the fresh water in the continental U.S., has been a priority for Joyce since he took office in January 2013. Joyce authored the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in 2016, which contains measures to combat invasive Asian carp and algal blooms, among myriad other cleanup issues.
However the 2018 budget -- "a [Office of Management and Budget Director] Mick Mulvaney budget," as Joyce called it -- proposed drastic cuts to the GLRI, from a requested $300 million to zero.
"I have a pretty good consensus supporting the measure," Joyce said, adding there are more iterations of the budget to come before it is addressed with a vote. "Will we get the full $300 million? Hopefully. But the possibility exists for a haircut."
Militarily, Joyce said the country's fighting forces are not properly supplied.
"It's an issue," he said. "The straight up answer is no, the military is not where it needs to be. We need to send a strong message to our men and women that we've got their backs. They can't be worrying about whether their supplies and equipment will follow them. It's our duty to bring our kids home, as well."
Joyce said he is a proponent of President Ronald Reagan's "peace through strength" philosophy.
"Strength of leadership has to come from America," Joyce said. "And that means keeping the peace by responding to aggression."
Joyce supported President Trump's actions in early April, when the United States responded to a Syrian chemical attack on its own people by launching 59 cruise missiles at Shayrat Air Base in Syria.
"That made a world of difference," he said. "And I agree we should be making sure [NATO allies] pay their fair share [in the alliance]."
One step removed from military service, the situation for veterans is often more bleak, Joyce said. Many are committing suicide at an alarming rate, the problem clear and present.
Joyce says the VA doesn't need more money, it just needs to operate more efficiently.
"It's a balancing net," Joyce said, "with savings versus services."
The VA has faced problems in Northeast Ohio and record-keeping inefficiencies across the country, Joyce said. The medical records for veterans should be readily available wherever the person seeks treatment, Joyce said.
"We should reach out to Silicon Valley for the sake of [record-keeping] efficiency, and tell them what we need," he said.
Joyce added that the art of compromise should be revisited inside the Beltway.
He said that when leaders meet with the intention of disagreeing, disagreement will be the outcome.
"There is bipartisanship out there. It exists."