Ross Kaminsky Show, Cory Gardner, June 28, 2017

Station:    KHOW, 630 am

Show:       Ross Kaminsky Show

Guests:    Gardner, Cory


Date:        June 28, 2017

Topics:     Affordable Care Act, Better Care Reform Act, American Health Care Act, ACA, BCRA, AHCA, President Donald Trump, Medicaid, Obamacare, Cory Gardner, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Susan Collins, NRSC, National Republican Senatorial Committee, Reince Priebus, Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, Opioid Crisis, Medicaid Expansion, Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, Premium Increases, Deductibles, Congressional Budget Office Score, CBO, North Korea, THAAD Missle Defense System, Kim Jung Un, China, President Moon, Ambassador Ahn, Sanctions

HOST ROSS KAMINSKY:  And they better start by doing something. I don’t care how good it is. I don’t care if it’s a mediocre bill. Do something! And don’t do this “on-the-fence” stuff, being pushed around by the AARP after we’ve had this incredible growth in the number of people on Medicaid in Colorado. Something like 40% of the people on Medicaid in Colorado were added since John Hickenlooper went through with Medicaid expansion in this state in 2013. So after Mitch McConnell made that announcement, Donald Trump invited Republican senators – well, he had invited them before, but the meeting was after, a couple hours after McConnell [made his announcement] — they all went over the White House — Republican senators — to talk with Pres. Trump about getting something done. And it was a private meeting. But before the private meeting, Donald Trump made a few comments to the assembled media:

AUDIO CLIP OF PRESIDENT TRUMP:  So we’re going to talk and we’re going to see what we can do. We’re getting very close. But for the country, we have to have healthcare. And it can’t be Obamacare, which is melting down. The other side is saying all sorts of things before they even knew what the bill was. This will be great, if we get it done. And if we don’t get it done, it’s just going to be something that we’re not going to like, and that’s okay. And I understand that very well.

KAMINSKY:  That — look, the first half that was excellent, right? We’ve got to get healthcare done, and not Obamacare. And not Obamacare, because it’s melting down and that’s right. And this is what they all campaigned on. And they’ve got to do something! I did not like when Pres. Trump said, “Well, if it doesn’t get done it means it’s something we won’t like and you know, that’s okay, but we won’t like it.” He shouldn’t have said that. I think I know why he said it. I think – again, I’m projecting. Not projecting, I’m speculating. That is the word I’m looking for — speculating as to why he said it. I think the reason that he said it is that he is not as confident as he is letting on that something’s going to get done. And I don’t blame him for not being that confident, when you’ve got people like Dean Heller and Susan Collins, and when you got people like Cory Gardner, who is definitely more conservative than Murkowski and more conservative than Collins and more conservative than Heller and is in charge of the NRSC — the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is responsible for getting Republicans elected to the U.S. Senate — when even someone like Gardner is kind of being wishy-washy about this, Donald Trump must know this — his advisors must be telling him, Reince Priebus must be telling him, “Don’t be too confident in this.”  So, I think what Donald Trump is doing is he saying, “Well, it might not happen. And if it doesn’t happen, well, we’ll, you know, we’ll live with it.” But I’ll tell you what, politically speaking, the Republicans won’t live with it. If the Republicans don’t get this done they are to be just wrecked, absolutely wrecked at the ballot box in 2018, in a year where Democrats are defending a huge number of seats in the U.S. Senate, in the year where if Republicans did things well and did things right it’s not inconceivable –putting aside anything we know about–just looking at the numbers, okay, just looking at the numbers, it wouldn’t be inconceivable for Republicans to expand their majority in the Senate so much that they could get to 60 and have a filibuster proof majority, like Barack Obama had for his first two years in office. And that’s how they ended up giving us Obamacare, in part. So, — and other things that they did. So, Trump is giving them, too easy, an out. He should not have said that. He should’ve kept the pressure on them. Now I want to make sure — I just played Republicans. I want to make sure you understand what it is that the liberals are saying about the Senate bill:

AUDIO CLIP OF CHUCK  SCHUMER: The Republicans cannot excise the rotten core at the center of their healthcare bill, no matter what tweaks they may add in the next week and a half, no matter how the bill changes around the edges. It is fundamentally flawed at the center. The American people don’t want Medicaid slashed. They don’t want help. They don’t want the help they need to fight opioid addiction, to help their parents in nursing homes, to help those with pre-existing conditions, and just to help the average person who needs good healthcare.

KAMINSKY:  Let me just pause there for a second. In fact, I’m just going to stop there because I don’t think I can tolerate hearing anymore Chuck Schumer. That last bit really drives me crazy. He’s saying that the average person – did you hear that? — they don’t want to — Americans don’t want to — what he said – “cut help for the average person.” Are you serious? Is that what we have become in this country, a place where the average person looks to government to give them subpar healthcare and think that that’s a good thing? It really is incredible! One other quick point before we get to Sen. Gardner, and that is that the opioid thing is a big issue. And they are going to push that in states like Maine, where Susan Collins is from, and other states where this is a very big problem, like Ohio, as well. And they are to make it sound like any cut to Medicaid, or any reduction in the rate of growth of Medicaid, will cause more people to die from heroin overdoses and stuff like that. It’s going to be a difficult political argument to beat, even though it’s really not right. And also, even though the opioid thing is real, does that mean that we should burden my children and their children and all of your children and grandchildren forever with this massive vote buying scheme called Medicaid expansion? No, it doesn’t. So with that said, I want to go to our VIP line where we are joined by Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and thus has the additional responsibility of helping Republican senators get elected around the country. Hello, Cory! Thanks so much for joining us! [I] appreciate you being here.


KAMINSKY:  So, we heard from Mitch McConnell that Republicans in the Senate are going to delay for a while until after the July 4 recess any vote on the Senate’s Obamacare — I don’t know whether you want to call it ‘Repeal’, ‘Reform’,’Replacement’–bill. What are your thoughts about that?

GARDNER:  Well, look, I think the most important thing we can do for this country is to make sure that we have a replacement for Obamacare. The average insurance increases — cost increases as a result of the Affordable Care Act – [are] over, well over 200%. So we’re talking about – oh, excuse me. [We’re talking about] two times – 105% increase. And so we’re talking about significant increases on premiums around the country. In some places, that’s even greater. If it’s in Alaska, it’s even higher than 200%. So we’ve seen dramatic damage done to the individual market, people who have insurance but can’t afford their deductibles. And we have to come up with a solution to address that.

KAMINSKY:  So you are in the news and made several public statements as still being kind of on the fence about this bill. And I know that the bill is going to change a lot, so it’s pointless to ask you if you’re going to vote for it or not. What are you — what are you looking for to change? What are the key things that have you concerned as a Republican, but unsure about this bill.

GARDNER:  Well, I want to make sure that any bill we put forth sets out and corrects the damage that was done by the Affordable Care Act. If you look at the damage done to the individual marketplaces, if you look at the damage that’s done to premiums – heck! Just look at the state of Colorado. The western slope of Colorado has some of the highest insurance rate increases in the nation. And so I want to understand the difference that this legislation makes to the American people. I want to make sure that the states have the functionality and the flexibility they need, if this indeed — as the legislation lays out — goes to a per capita cap. How do we make sure that that functionality and state driven decision-making is enabled. What we can’t do is have, sort of, this Washington idea where we dangle out the prospect of state control but then withhold that state control and it makes things less efficient, make things more costly, and it certainly doesn’t respect the ability of the states to innovate. So, those are some of the things that I have to be comfortable with. And I will tell you, Ross, I have talked to insurance executives who believe that this will bend the cost curve down. They’ll be able to reduce rates. It believes, in fact, — to use one statement — it markedly stabilizes the individual market. That’s what they’re saying about the bill. But I’m going through — line by line — the Congressional Budget Office score, asking questions about it, and making sure that I understand outside analysts’ view of the bill, as well.

KAMINSKY:  I’m sure you know, since you’re from here in Colorado, but the increase — the increase in the number of people on Medicaid in our state, from the time that our governor started the Medicaid expansion and until now, is absolutely astounding! [We’re] talking about something like 600,000 people, maybe close to 40% of the people on Medicaid in this state just came through the expansion. And I wonder if people in American, even in this short period of time, have gotten used to something that they feel like is an entitlement. And how do you, as a conservative Republican, deal with that mentality? You know, you’re in office, you’re trying to get other Republicans elected to the Senate, and yet you have people who seem like they’re starting to get addicted to the government cheese, here. How do you deal with it?

GARDNER:  Well, I hope that there aren’t people out there who think that Medicaid is the provider of choice for people who want to have insurance coverage. There are some people who, through no fault of their own, we are going to make sure they have care. And as a community, as a country, we have made that decision to make sure that we are going to take care of them. And that’s what we have to assure, that we are going to do in any policy. Unfortunately, the Affordable Care Act doesn’t reach that goal. And that’s why we have to have something better. But [we need] to reach out to people, [and help them] to realize that a growing economy creates jobs. Those jobs have good benefits. And that’s what we have to make sure this growing economy does do, is to create jobs — to create jobs with benefits, because getting into a group policy is going to be a better policy insurance coverage than Medicaid. And so, making sure that able-bodied adults who, right now, — without children — who may be in Medicaid, are able to find a better paying job that has better benefits. I think that’s what we’ve got to do. And how to drive those decisions, how to innovate within the marketplace to have more options for consumers, more options for people who need their kind of care, to choose the kind of care that best suits them.  You know, Congress doesn’t know what’s best for the people of Colorado. The people of Colorado know what’s best for themselves. And so, let’s empower people to choose what’s best for them.

KAMINSKY:  Our special guest, Senator Cory Gardner, Republican of Colorado and Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.  Let me switch gears with you for a minute, Cory.  The last couple of times we’ve talked, — indeed, the last time I saw you in Washington DC – what was on your mind was North Korea. And you made a point to me that you’ve been trying to raise awareness among your Senate colleagues for quite some time about North Korea. I want to ask you how that awareness-raising is going, and I want to ask you specifically to comment on the news that we saw within the past couple of days about South Korea deciding to put on hold the deployment of something called the THAAD system – T-H-A-A-D – which, as you know, is sort of like a Patriot missile system, except for high altitude ballistic missiles.

GARDNER:  Well, yeah. Absolutely. I think just a few weeks ago, Secretary Mattis said that North Korea was the most urgent national security issue that we face. And I firmly believe that. I passed a sanctions bill last Congress that was the toughest sanctions regime ever put in place against the Kim Jung Un regime — against North Korea — mandatory sanctions for a number of acts that lead to the proliferation of a nuclear weapons program in North Korea. We must enforce them. We must enforce them to the letter of the law. And that includes placing secondary sanctions on Chinese entities that are enabling the North Korean regime. Look, it’s unacceptable that China is empowering the North Korean regime by doing business with them in such a way that it funds of the nuclear program. It’s got to stop, and we need to stand up and put that maximum pressure in place to stop North Korea and to stop China from enabling it. When it comes to the deployment of a missile defense system, that is an alliance decision that has been made between the United States and the Republic of Korea. It’s an alliance decision that I believe will stand, in my conversations with top officials of the new administration in South Korea – President Moon’s administration. I called the ambassador — Ambassador Ahn from South Korea — into my office earlier this week – uh, late last week, excuse me – where we had a conversation. And they have assured me that they will not be going back on their decision to deploy THAAD. Now, what we have to do — and I have urged President Trump to do this later this week when he meets with President Moon — is to come up – between President Moon and President Trump– a decision to expeditiously move forward with full deployment of THAAD. And I think that ought to be one of the top the subjects of the summit coming up.

KAMINSKY:  About one minute left, Cory, and I want to ask you — you mentioned China, there, and President Trump had made some comments – and this question is not about Pres. Trump. But President Trump made some comments about how he thought the Chinese were doing what they could to try to help us deal with North Korea. It sounds like you don’t really believe that’s true.

GARDNER:  Well, I think that we’ve got to be firm with China, because what we’ve seen with China over the last quarter, their trade with North Korea has increased nearly 40% in iron ore. They’ve increased trade with North Korea almost 270 percent, and President Trump has rightly identified, at the very beginning of the year, that they cut off some coal imports, but that’s after — China had cut off coal imports, but that’s after China had hit their allotment under the sanctions. And so, I think what we’re celebrating is a China that has done the mere minimum and then tried to take credit for whole lot more. Their retaliation toward South Korea has cost the South Korean economy over $7 billion, because they objected to the deployment of a missile defense system in South Korea. So China is trying to bully the South Koreans, while South Korea is simply looking out for their own self-defense. And so, I think President Trump has to engage in a way that the administration has not to this date. I think that he has to engage China in a way — to force China to engage in way they have not. And it’s absolutely critical that ‘maximum pressure’ live up to the words and make sure that that meeting isn’t lost on anyone around the globe.

KAMINSKY:  Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, thank you for alerting your colleagues as best you can to the dangers North Korea poses. And thank you for making time to be with us. [I] appreciate your time.

GARDNER:  Thank you, Ross! Thanks.

KAMINSKY:  I think it’s a very important conversation. It’s obviously not going away, this news about the CBO malfeasance in the way they scored this. I think it’s going to change a lot of things. You keep paying attention. I’ll keep you updated on what’s going on. Don’t forget I’m in for Joe “Pags” again tonight, so you can hear that on KHOW.