U.S. Sen. David Perdue called the failed second effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act — colloquially known as Obamacare — a breakdown on the part of members of his own party.
“Sen. Perdue said this is everything that is wrong in D.C. — it’s personal interests over the national interests,” said Lesley Fulop, Perdue’s press secretary, in a Wednesday meeting with The News, along with Perdue press assistant Jenni Sweat.
Specifically, the Georgia Republican called out the three main expected no votes — U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, John McCain and Lisa Murkowski — as McCain chairs a committee and Collins and Murkowski chair a subcommittee within the chamber, saying there was a lack of leadership.
Now, conservative groups are calling for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s ouster, and suggesting Perdue take the mantle. Jenny Beth Martin, a Tea Party Patriots co-founder and Georgia resident, said in a Wednesday morning news conference that Perdue, as the chief executive officer of a Fortune 500 company, “… knows how to lead,” according to multiple news reports.
Taking on the throne can cause serious schisms within the majority party, at least in the short term, and Perdue has not made it clear whether he would participate in that effort. The Washington Post quoted Perdue in a Sept. 29 story where he said, “This is not about individuals; this is about our caucus,” in what the writers characterized as dodging the topic.
In the immediate future, though, Perdue is trying to flesh out and shepherd through the Senate a major tax reform measure that at present has the backing of the White House. It comes at a time in which Congress is working through multiple funding measures to help deal with the hundreds of billions of dollars in damage caused by hurricanes in Florida, Puerto Rico, Texas and other locations.
“The way that we see it, we need to get tax reform passed so that we can get the economy going, so that we can start seeing the effects of it by Christmas next year, so that we can afford to be paying and affording this emergency funding,” Fulop said. “So, the way we see it is that tax reform is critical to getting companies back over here, spending money in the U.S., jobs in the U.S., people getting more money back in their paychecks, and in order for the government to be able to pull that money back together so we can afford the emergency funding.”
When discussing emergency funding, Sweat said if the financial house is not in order, “We’ll lose the right to do the right thing.”
Perdue remains among President Donald Trump’s inner circle and stands as one of Trump’s top supporters and a kind of liaison between the Senate and White House. The relationship began following Perdue’s election in 2014, when Fulop said Trump called to gauge how the public accepted Perdue as someone running for high office who never held an elected position before.
“He talks to the president a decent amount,” Fulop said. “He was there last week to talk about immigration at the White House.”
The president was scheduled to speak on tax reform at a rally focused on truckers, as of press time Wednesday, in Harrisburg, Pa.
“We will eliminate the penalty on returning future earnings back to the United States,” Trump planned to say, in an excerpt provided to news media and published by The Hill. “And we will impose a one-time low tax on money currently parked overseas so it can be brought back home to America — where it belongs.
“My Council of Economic Advisors estimates that this change, along with a lower rate, would likely give the typical American household a $4,000 pay raise.”
On the whole, though, Fulop said Senate Republicans are working out the specifics of the recently released tax framework.
“For the most part, Republicans are doing a really good job about not boxing themselves into any agreeing or disagreeing with any particular piece of tax reform,” Fulop said. “I think that everybody — on the Republican side, at least — understands and knows that we need to get tax reform done this year.”
Sweat added there was a feeling of consensus among Senate Republicans, which is likely necessary for any major legislation to pass. With only 52 GOP votes to count on, and near-universal Democratic opposition expected, Republicans cannot afford to lose too many votes among their own if and when the legislation goes to the floor for a full vote.