Congressman Dent advises GOP colleagues to ditch rhetoric

    U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)

    U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)

    One of Washington’s most moderate Republicans, Pennsylvania Congressman Charlie Dent, has spent  several weeks trying to urge his colleagues to compromise over health care.

    But the GOP’s long-awaited Affordable Care Act replacement couldn’t find enough supporters, and collapsed Friday without a vote.

    Dent’s response to his conservative colleagues? Essentially, “told you so.”

    By his assessment, congressional Republicans are divided into several disparate groups — the hardline Freedom Caucus members, the fiscal conservatives, and an ever-shrinking pool of moderates.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    On the other hand, Democrats are fairly united — but unwilling to cooperate with the president.

    Dent said this makes it near-impossible to pass legislation, much less on a tight, arbitrary deadline like the one GOP leadership issued on health care.

    “It’s hard to do big reform issues like health care or tax reform when we’re having trouble just functioning,” he said.

    Dent, who didn’t support the proposed ACA replacement plan, said he thinks his party put too much thought into anti-Obamacare rhetoric and not enough work into actually coming up with a strategy that could win support in the entire, divided GOP, much less across the aisle.

    “I think, over time, some of my colleagues didn’t realize the complexities of replacing Obamacare after it’s been embedded for seven years,” he said. “We should try to get the product right before we start labeling whatever it is we’re going to do.”

    He added that he’s worried they’ll fall into the same trap with planned tax code reforms, which President Donald Trump and legislative leaders have indicated is next on the agenda.

    Dent favors finishing the 2017 appropriations bill first, or taking a look at the debt ceiling or infrastructure.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal