What has become known as “Obamacare” may be here to stay, Congressman Jack Kingston said.
Kingston (R-Savannah), speaking to the Rotary Club of Effingham County on Thursday, expressed his disappointment and surprise at U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts siding with four other justices to uphold most of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s provisions — including its individual mandate clause.
“I frankly do not see Obamacare being repealed,” he said.
While the House of Representatives, with 242 Republican members and 193 Democrats, may vote to overturn the ACA, Kingston doesn’t believe it stands much of a chance in the Senate of progressing. In fact, he doesn’t think any repeal will ever to get to the Senate floor for a vote.
There are 51 Democrats — and two other senators who caucus with the Democrats — across the aisle from 47 Republicans. Of nearly two dozen Senate seats in Democrat control up for election, Kingston projects less than a handful are likely to fall to the Republican side in November.
It won’t be enough votes, he predicts, to break a filibuster.
“There will be a lot of saber-rattling, a lot of rhetoric,” he said. “But to get a vote on the floor of the Senate, you have to have 60 people to agree to bring it forward. I don’t see that happening.”
Kingston also said Chief Justice Roberts, the swing vote in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision, likely caved into pressure before siding what with what is regarded as the high court’s liberal wing. Roberts was appointed to the Supreme Court’s top post by President George W. Bush.
“I was shocked by Chief Justice Roberts’ behavior,” said Kingston, now in his 10th term in Congress. “From a non-lawyer point of view, I’ve seen a lot of people go to Washington, D.C., and be intimidated by the atmosphere up there. I fear Mr. Roberts was intimidated by a lot of criticism of the court. In order to say the court was above politics, he made a very political decision.
“In reading about this decision, he wriggled and squirmed his way to where he wanted to go,” Kingston added.
Kingston, whose redrawn 1st District includes the southern third of Effingham County, noted that President Obama has not appointed judges who have pro-life views to the federal bench. But, Kingston pointed out, that’s the president’s prerogative.
“While judges aren’t supposed to be partisan, they are supposed to be philosophical,” he said. “To say a judge shouldn’t be philosophical is ridiculous.”
The effects of the Supreme Court’s decisions likely will result in higher taxes across the board, Kingston warned, and in higher costs all around.
“There will be a lot of new mandates and a lot of new regulatory authorities on individuals, health care providers and on businesses,” he said.
Those costs will be passed on to consumers and taxpayers as the price of doing business.
As the father of four children, the youngest of whom is in college, Kingston said the act’s provision allowing children up to 26 years old to remain on their parents’ insurance coverage directly benefits him.
“And it’s wrong,” he said. “I have raised my kids to be independent. I support their option of not getting health care, because that’s their freedom and it’s not an illogical choice for a 22-year-old to say, ‘I don’t want to buy health care.’ But they have lost that freedom, and probably lost that permanently.”
Kingston, a former insurance agent, said he sees people picking and choosing what benefits them under a “smorgasbord” of health care.
“What I do see happening is you’re going to get a mixed bag,” he said.
Kingston, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee’s Health and Human Services subcommittee, believes taxes are going to have to go up to cover the cost of the health care plan.
“I think we’re going to be fighting about this for a long time to come,” he said, “but I don’t see it ever being repealed. There will be a lot of new mandates and a lot of new regulatory authorities on individuals, health care providers and on businesses.”
Kingston related a conversation he had with a small business owner Thursday morning, a friend who employed 14 people.
“I’m very concerned about the regulatory environment killing small businesses,” he said.
Kingston recounted that his friend told him he was about to get out of the economic slump, “but I don’t know what Obamacare is going to do, and I don’t want to add on right now.”
Red tape also has slowed the deepening of the Savannah harbor, Kingston said. The deepening, which would allow the port to handle larger ships carrying more containers, was authorized 13 years ago at a cost of $230 million. The final documents of the harbor’s expansion to 47 feet have been available for review since the spring.
“Our regulatory environment is dragging us down,” he said. “One of the biggest job drivers in our area would be the expansion of the Savannah port. We’re still studying; it has not been approved. But the cost has gone from $230 million to $650 million. In the meantime, China has built an entire port from start to finish bigger than the entire port of Savannah because they understand the global market of these supercontainer ships.”
Kingston also has espoused eliminating the Pentagon’s sponsorship of sporting events as a recruitment arm. He and Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) sponsored an amendment in the most recent defense appropriations bill to cut out that funding.
The Department of Defense, through its sponsorship of NASCAR teams, promotions at professional wrestling events and backing of motocross races, is spending $80 million a year, Kingston said. Sponsorship of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s NASCAR team alone is $20 million.
“We have to measure the military with the same yardstick we do some of the social programs,” he said. “As much as anything, I understand that the military has to recruit the best and the brightest. I’m all for that.”
But Kingston said the Army is cutting its troop levels by 72,000, the Marines are reducing their strength by 20,000 and the Navy and Air Force each are paring 5,000 servicemembers from their ranks.
“You would have thought I directly attacked apple pie,” Kingston said.
He was amused as major media outlets questioned if he was “afraid for his life” from NASCAR fans after declaring to cut the sponsorship for Earnhardt Jr., one of NASCAR’s biggest stars. Kingston admitted he isn’t a NASCAR fan but that had no bearing on his proposal.
“I’ve been to military bases all around the world, and I think the troops have to come first,” he said. “I’ll tell you this about NASCAR fans — America is always going to come before NASCAR. So I’m not worried about being knocked off by NASCAR fans.”