Senator concerned about Iran, ACA

by W. Winston Skinner

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson says he has concerns about the State Department’s nuclear agreement with the Iranian government, and he says the Affordable Care Act was driven by ideology rather than function.

The senator sat down for an interview at The Newnan Times-Herald offices on Wednesday morning before heading to a luncheon meeting speaking to the Newnan and Coweta-Fayette Rotary Clubs and a town hall at the local West Georgia Technical College campus.

Isakson said he is to meet with State Department officials on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week to talk about the Iran agreement. He said the agreement is reversed from what he would prefer — with concessions given before answers are obtained about Iran’s capability and intent with regard to nuclear power.

Isakson said he would rather have had “the big question” answered before concessions were granted.

“History is a good teacher, and experience is the best teacher,” Isakson said. The United States’ experience with Iran since the revolution there has not been a positive one. He said images of Hitler and Chamberlain in 1938 come to mind in an uncomfortable way as the Iran nuclear story unfolds.

Isakson said he subscribes to Ronald Reagan’s “Trust but verify” philosophy. “The Iranians have not let us verify anything yet,” he said.

Isakson said the Affordable Care Act is “more a philosophical move” than one that is programmatic. He said the Obama administration “bought off” key groups — the American Medical Association, AARP and large pharmaceutical companies — with concessions “to get them to adopt the concept.”

Then when the ACA was being formulated, those groups and other key constituencies were not at the table.

He said the only way to implement something as elephantine as the ACA would be “one bite at a time.” Speaking from his perspective as a businessman, Isakson said, “I know how hard it is to implement too many changes at one time.”

Isakson said the ACA essentially drives Americans toward a single payer for health care. He predicted that when the employer mandate takes effect next year, many companies will cease offering health coverage to workers — because it will be cheaper for them to pay the fines than to provide the coverage.

Isakson criticized House Speaker Harry Reid for exempting some of his staff from ACA. Isakson said he himself has applied for ACA coverage through the DC Exchange, even though — at 68 — he is eligible for Medicare. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” he said.

Isakson said a negotiated bid with a Canadian company led to the ACA website that has had major problems. While there are “times and places when a negotiated bid” makes sense, he said, those instances are rare.

The senator said Verizon officials were called Sept. 28 and asked to provide servers for the Oct. 1 rollout. He said Verizon provided the servers but told ACA officials the system was broken and would not work.

“It has been put together with spit and bailing wire,” the senator quipped.

Isakson said he believes the vote by Senate Democrats to change voting on many appointments to a simple majority is largely a flexing of power. He said the vote was an effort on the part of Reid “to make it look like the Republicans were being obstructionist.”

He said what really has been playing out is an unwillingness on the part of Democratic leadership to bring legislation to the floor.

Isakson noted the majority vote rule applies to judicial nominees other than the Supreme Court and to federal bureaucracy appointments. He said the “blue slip” rule, which allows senators to hold up confirmation of any nominee, is still in place.

He said the change amounts to “a partial loosening of the rules to strengthen the majority’s hands.” Democrats could have completely eliminated the 60 percent requirement and the blue slip rule if that had been their goal, he said.

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