The Congressional Black Caucus scored a victory over President Trump when the U.S. House of Representatives failed to take up his health care bill recently and now they are setting their sights on stopping the president’s agenda on tax reform.
FILE – In this Jan. 11, 2017, file photo, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Dante Antoine Rosser accused of threatening the staff of Lewis is set to appear in court Monday, March 6, 2017, in Atlanta for a hearing to decide whether he’ll continue to be held in custody. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)
On March 20, U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) pulled the Republican-backed “American Health Care Act”, saying that he didn’t have the votes to pass it. Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) said the bill’s failure is a good thing for the country.
“Since President Trump took office, Republicans have been working overtime to implement rules and procedures to undermine the confidence in Obamacare, and now insurers are leaving the market and their plan to repeal and replace the law failed,” Richmond said. “This failure is on Republicans, not Democrats. Thankfully this law didn’t pass because it would have been a disaster for the health of all Americans.”
“We know poor communities and it was our responsibility to offer solutions,” he continued. “Our next step is to meet with cabinet secretaries. We are going to hold his feet to the fire. Nothing has changed on our side.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) told the AFRO on March 20 at a pro-Obamacare rally on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol that the Republicans health care bill could have been a problem for Blacks.
“We African Americans tend to live shorter life spans and we suffer from high rates of diabetes, heart failure, kidney disease and sickle cell anemia,” Lee said. “Plus, we carry the burden of high rates of HIV/AIDS. Many African Americans would have lost their coverage under the Republican plan because rates would have gone up for those who are middle and low-income, particularly the elderly.”
Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) said that the legislation was “poorly crafted” and it “would have kicked 24 million Americans off their health insurance; increased costs for veterans, seniors and middle class families; removed maternity care, prescription drug coverage and emergency room services from insurance plans; and ended Medicaid as we know it.”
“I am proud to have stood against this disastrous bill from Day 1,” Brown said. “Real people rely on the Affordable Care Act. More people are insured today than ever before, seniors receive discounts on their prescription drugs and Americans are now getting free preventive care like mammograms and vaccinations.”
However, Brown conceded that Obamacare needs some improvement saying that “I hope we can do more to lower costs and increase coverage in our healthcare system.”
Lee told the AFRO and Brown stressed in his statement that the reason why the Republican health care bill failed is because people across the country organized and told their elected representatives that they didn’t like the Trump plan.
Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), who spoke at the pro-Obamacare rally, said that the momentum to oppose the Trump agenda must continue.
“This is your day and your victory but you must not grow weary fighting for our democracy,” McEachin said. “We are counting on you to continue to fight on other issues.”
According to staffers, President Trump will seek to reform the tax code. Tax reform hasn’t taken place since 1986, under President Reagan, and Trump said on the 2016 campaign trail that he will reduce taxes “for average Americans.”
However, members of the CBC who sit on the powerful tax-writing House Ways & Means Committee don’t think Trump has Black’s at interest. On March 28, the committee voted down a resolution mandating that Trump release his tax returns solely on party lines.
Nevertheless, Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), who is one of three CBC members on the committee, said that before Trump tackles tax reform, he needs to get his own house in order.”When we can get the president to release his tax forms, then we can talk about tax reform,” Davis said.
The CBC member with the most seniority on Ways & Means is Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.). Lewis said that he has no idea what Trump will propose specifically but strongly believes that it will benefit the wealthy and he will fight that.
“When the issue comes up, I am ready to speak up,” Lewis told the AFRO. “I want to make it crystal clear that we will not tolerate tax cuts for the wealthy that will squeeze lower and middle income Americans.”
Lewis, who is a legend on Capitol Hill because of his civil rights activism in the 1960s, agreed with Lee, Brown and McEachin that the people must get ready to fight tax reform.
“We have to get organized and get out and protest,” he said.
Hamil Harris contributed to this article.