Bobby Jindal on Why the GOP Can’t Just Run on Repeal Alone

by Jim Geraghty

I had the chance to sit down with Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal earlier today and discuss his proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare. I’ll have more of our discussion transcribed in the near future, but for now, here’s his answer on why he’s introducing a plan, separate from previous GOP congressional plans.

Geraghty: You’re a governor, and you’re introducing a plan to replace and replace a federal law, Obamacare. You’re not in Congress anymore. Lots of folks are going to interpret this, ‘Here comes the rollout for 2016.’ So go ahead. Dissuade the skepticism and cynicism.

Jindal: Simple to get rid of the cynicism in Washington, D.C.! I’d say three things.

One, obviously, the plan is built around several federalism components. So for example, there’s a large role for states and the $100 billion in grants. Secondly, there’s much more flexibility for states in the Medicaid program. When you look at where conservative principles are being applied, they’re being applied at the state level. You see a lot of innovation coming out of the states.

First, I think the plan does build around federalism principles that are consistent with our experiences as Republican governors. Secondly, I said a while ago we’re going to stop outsourcing our brand to D.C. I think it’s incumbent on all Republican leaders to speak up and offer principled conservative solutions to the problems facing our country. I think for too long, people have said, “Oh, health care is a Democratic issue or a liberal issue, same way with education.” I think that’s wrong.

Republicans more often talk about tax policy, foreign policy, defense policy and I think we need to be comfortable talking about health care and education. These are American issues. And so we’re going to be doing more policies out of America Next on education, energy, and other issues. It’s incumbent upon conservatives to make these elections debates of ideas, not about personalities.

Third, I’ve got a particular background in health-care policy, being the [Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals] health secretary, an assistant secretary up here [as the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services], and also the [executive director] of the national bipartisan commission on the future of Medicare. And so this is something I’ve actually got a lot of experience in.

Obamacare is such an important issue in what it’s doing to our health-care system and to our freedoms, it’s an issue we all have to speak out about. As conservatives, we often talk about how there are these big decisions we have to make as a country — whether the debt, taxes, more borrowing, more spending. If we really believe that to be true, we have to have the courage of our convictions and have an informed debate and discussion with the American people and persuade them that there is a different and better way.

There are a lot of smart Republican operatives here in D.C. that would tell you: Just run against Obamacare, don’t offer an alternative, especially with the November elections coming up. That might be good tactical advice, but that’s a lousy way to earn ourselves back into a governing majority. I think if we want the ability to govern, we need to tell people what we would do if we were given that power. That’s as important as winning the election, and maybe more important, to tell people why we want to be in power in the first place.

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