U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta casts self as out of the fray
Frank Guinta editorial board. October 26, 2012. Running for re-election in the first congressional district. (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »
The problem Rep. Frank Guinta has with President Obama’s health care reform law is the same problem he saw with the protracted debate over raising the debt ceiling last summer and the same problem he sees ahead for the debate over scheduled sequestration cuts: “It got political,” he told the Monitor’s editorial board in an interview last week.
Guinta, a Republican and former mayor of Manchester running for re-election against the woman he beat two years ago, Carol Shea-Porter of Rochester, presented himself as outside of the political fray of Washington, D.C. He said he meets frequently with a bipartisan group of former mayors from Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
“People are frustrated. I hear it all the time,” he said. “The mayors, we sit there and shake our heads.”
Running the country on continuing resolutions instead of annual budgets is “in my views, one of the worst ways to govern,” he said. “You don’t run a business that way, you don’t run a nonprofit that way. You don’t run a city that way, and you wouldn’t run your home that way.”
He said he did agree with Republican leadership during the debates over the debt ceiling, which ultimately led to the downgrading of the country’s credit rating.
“I share the view that we should be reducing our spending, not just raising the debt ceiling like it had been before. It was often just a one-sentence bill and a voice vote. I don’t think you haphazardly raise the debt ceiling without trying to put reforms in,” he said.
But when it comes to sequestration spending cuts that were set in motion as a result of the failed debt ceiling debates, Guinta believes they should be suspended as soon as possible.
“There are serious problems with readiness and an issue economically. If we all agree sequestration is so terrible, let’s take it up on it’s own. I do think we have no choice but to get something done,” he said.
He also said he believes the United States should cede some of the nation-building work in Afghanistan to other countries.
After a visit last year, “I was concerned about the dollars we were spending on infrastructure. . . . I’m not sure that’s in our best interest financially,” he said.
“Our goal should be to make sure the terrorist networks don’t have the capacity to rebuild. . . . It means having a surgical plan to go directly after terrorists. I did not think, however, it was the right thing to do (for Obama to) publicly announce our end date. These networks are trying to wait us out,” he said.
Guinta said he agrees with the president that health care should be more affordable and accessible, and said he agrees that young people should be able to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they are 26 and that insurance companies shouldn’t be able to withhold coverage from customers with pre-existing conditions.
“Those more popular aspects, we should keep them, and I think if they had been presented component-by-component, they could have passed. There was this notion that it is just going to happen. There was no bipartisan support and it got very polarized and very political,” Guinta said.
If the Affordable Care Act is repealed in the next session of Congress, Guinta proposed allowing states to enter regional cooperative agreements to promote greater competition; expanding community health centers, as he did in Manchester with some federal funding; demanding more transparency from hospitals so consumers can see the price of procedures at different locations before making appointments; and reforming tort legislation so doctors don’t order unnecessary tests to protect themselves from potential lawsuits.
Guinta also said he believes both Medicare and Social Security benefits should be subject to some sort of means test.
Future Medicare enrollees, people currently under age 55, should be offered premium support for purchasing private insurance, and later, offered enrollment in traditional Medicare. Retirees with a higher net worth could receive less premium support, he said.
“Some people say (about Social Security), ‘I’ve paid into it.’ But there’s things you pay into that you don’t utilize. There’s some people who use it for their sole source of retirement. That’s the first group of people you want to make sure have 100 percent access to Social Security and you want to go from there. If you’re for someone that’s got a net worth of $25-to-30 million, it’s reasonable to say, you’re not going to get the same amount as somebody retiring with $20,000 on a fixed income.
“We need people who are willing to look at the options and say, ‘What is meaningful for the continuation of the program, and for getting us back to a balanced budget, which I believe we can get to balance within five years,” he said. “Let’s be realistic. Let’s sit down at the table. We owe that to the country.”
(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)