Bill Flores

U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, said Senate Republicans “control all of our collective destinies in their hands.”

Staff photo — Jerry Larson, file

U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, took aim at Senate Republicans on Thursday, blaming the upper chamber for its latest failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act. At the same time, Flores is pressuring his party to follow through with an overhaul of the federal tax code.

“The future of advancing the agenda that the American people voted for last November is contingent upon the behavior of the 52 GOP senators,” said Flores, the former chairman of the influential House Republican Study Committee. “They control all of our collective destinies in their hands. That’s the reason I’m hopeful that, again, they will start reflecting on what the American people told us they wanted done when they went to the polling booths last November.”

Outside of the Capitol this week, the largest Republican caucus promised to repeal, this year, President Barack Obama’s signature legislation that gave millions of Americans access to health care and accompanied an increase in individual-market premiums.

Flores said he is “exceptionally disappointed” in Senate Republicans, who did not take the latest health care bill authored by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, to a vote. At least three Republican senators indicated they were against the bill.

Flores, who has said “Obamacare” must be repealed without bipartisan support, would have supported the bill alongside House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin. He called on the Senate to end the 60-vote filibuster rule and pass the legislation with a simple majority.

“There’s an institutional process over there that has gotten between doing what the American people want, and instead it gives preference to the rules of the Senate, which are from the 1800s,” Flores said. “I, like most people in District 17, think that’s very frustrating.”

The House of Representatives should pass laws repealing the Affordable Care Act “piece by piece,” Republican Study Committee Chair U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, R-North Carolina, told reporters this week in a televised press conference.

“The House is doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” Flores said Thursday, comparing the House’s accomplishments to the Senate’s. “It’s working like it’s supposed to. Unfortunately, the American people don’t really appreciate the fact that one part of Congress is getting its work done and the other doesn’t. They look at Congress as a whole, and Congress as a whole is failing because of the Senate’s inability to move forward.”

The Study Committee also plans to lead a House push to send legislation bolstering border security and reforming tax policy to President Donald Trump’s desk.

Flores said the GOP tax plan revealed Wednesday is “focused solidly on working-class Americans that are living paycheck to paycheck, that are worried about their futures, that think there’s no opportunity left for them.”

“This b.s. about it being a tax plan that favors the rich is just beyond the pale. That doesn’t line up with reality,” Flores said. “I will pay a lot more under this tax plan than I do today. And I’m fine with that because, at the end of the day, we’re all going to be better off because the working class group, which is the largest population in this country, is going to have more money to spend to grow the economy.”

The top individual income tax rate, which Republicans would cut from 39.6 percent to 35 percent, would result in the wealthy contributing more because state and local tax deductions will no longer be available, Flores said. The corporate tax rate, slashed from 35 percent to 20 percent, would attract more American job opportunities, he said.

The plan would also eliminate the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax, both of which affect upper-income Americans. Dale Mantey, a Rockdale native seeking to unseat Flores next year, said he doesn’t know anyone who is eligible for the estate tax.

“This tax plan will not increase the paycheck for any teacher in Central Texas,” Mantey said. “It will not increase the paycheck for any electrician or welder or any working-class person in Central Texas. That is a fact. It is not political spin.”

Mantey, a Democrat, said the GOP’s repeated failure to repeal “Obamacare,” a law he wants to see improved, represents a lack of leadership in the party.

“When it comes down to actually doing things and passing legislation and the actual workings of government, they have no idea what they’re doing,” Mantey said.

Because leaders in the House, the Senate and the White House have fingerprints on the plan, Flores believes the tax plan has a better chance of passage than Republicans’ health care attempts. Meanwhile, he is “not optimistic” Democrats will support the tax reform bill as Republicans look to bridge the party divide on an issue Ryan has called “the most important thing we can do to restore confidence to this country.”

“Ideologically, (Democrats) are just having trouble finding things to be happy about in terms of what Republicans are doing,” Flores said. “If they look at what this does for working-class Americans, they should want to vote for this.”

Phillip has covered higher education for the Tribune-Herald since November 2015.

Recommended for you