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Rep. Scott Peters On Tax Reform, Yucca Mountain, Healthcare For Veterans

December 28, 2017 1:16 p.m.

Rep. Scott Peters On Tax Reform, Yucca Mountain, Healthcare For Veterans

GUEST:

Rep. Scott Peters, congressman, 52nd District

Related Story: Rep. Peters On Tax Reform, Yucca Mountain, Healthcare For Veterans

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

2017 ends with the first major legislative victory for President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress. The new tax reform package past the house and Senate with not a single democratic vote. They are hoping to have more of us in Washington soon as the party gears up for the midterm elections this November. Joining us is Scott Peters Democrat from San Diego's 52nd district. Mike Pence said it was a shame that no Democrat supported the tax cut bill because President Donald Trump tried so hard to reach out to them.
>> This is an unfair characterization. I would say a number of Democrats saw the need for tax reform on these lines. We did recognize that the corporate tax was high. About 25 would be a good number. We know that there's a lot of profits of American companies that are trapped overseas. We would like to bring those back and invest them. Beyond that, we could've done tax reform in a bipartisan way without breaking the budget and without blowing up the debt. Yes, I think democratics felt like they -- we never had a seat at the table. It was cooked up by Republicans. That is the way they did it. 1986 president Reagan and speaker O eill worked hard to get every single vote of every member of Congress in the Senate and had a committee and did real tax reform that was good for the economy. This is a shame.
>> We been hearing that 80% of Americans will see lower taxes next year because of this new tax law. How do you think the new laws is going to affect your constituents?
>> I think that my friend from Brooklyn says that you make it a trickle but you will still stay down. I think there will be small tax relief for a lot of people and that could be pretty good. People at the lower economic levels will spend their money as opposed to people who get a break that have the money that they need or don't need to buy anything else. The two things I would say wriggles for Californians is elimination of the state local tax deduction or the limitation of it. I think 6 million people take advantage of that deduction. The average is over $18,000. This will limit to 10,000. I think we think about a third of San Diegans you that deduction. The other thing that is hidden is that will have affect on my constituents is what happened with the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act. It is the forcing mechanism for healthy people. The removal of this incentive we will raise premiums somewhere around 10 to 20% even if your on your employer's health care plan. It will hit you pretty hard. I'm not sure that the net will be all that good for my constituents.
>> This that removal of the individual mandate achieve the Republican goal on ending Obamacare.
>> Not really. There is still a system set up or you have individual markets for which you can have subsidies. That is made to fill in where there is no employer-provided health care. Unfortunately, this is sort of a sabotage of the markets, if you think of some other mechanism -- we are working on that. You will see premiums increase. That is a real shame.
>> Now that the present and the Congress has passed one piece of major legislation do you think it will be easier for Republicans to move forward on other policy issues? Like finding the wall entitlement programs?
>> The problem with the way that this tax bill was done and the healthcare bill before it when it's written entirely by one party. We were not allowed in the hearing rooms. Does create a lot of ill will and breaks down trust. So I think it will be difficult for Republicans to convince Democrats to work together on infrastructure. We think we need that we could've paid for it. I think it will be difficult. On the wall, I would say Democrats are okay with a lot of border security measures in order to couple that with a solution for the dreamers. The wall is not one of them. The wall is a tremendous waste of money and also sends the wrong single -- signal to Mexico. We need more technology that would intercept poor cargo. I think the wall is a nonstarter for Democrats.
>> There's a lot of energy in the Democratic Party focus on the midterm elections. Republican Congressman Darrell Issa and Duncan Hunter are two of the seats that Democrats would like to flip in this upcoming election. Do you believe that Democrats can take control of the House or the Senate?
>> It is early to say, I think. I would make a couple of observations that would suggest it is possible. Look at what happened in Virginia. The DNC did not do this before and decided to present a challenge in every district. And one district could not be one. -- won. It is exciting to see the quality of these people. They are veterans, Ivy League educated, they have businesses. It is terrific. I think people feel called by the last election to really bring honor and bring unity back to the country. So if the Democrats win, it will not be because of a strategy from Washington DC it's because they ran these racist district by district. The winner -- the race was about the road. That is how I think there's an opening for Democrats.
>> You think Democrats could lead this political opportunity slip through their fingers? What do they need to avoid?
>> We are all very horrified by a lot of what dry is doing. Clearly, the way he's beating up on the FBI on American institutions and the fundamentals of the democracy shock a lot of us. I think we need to resist that. I think we have to offer -- we do not offer our own view for the future. We have a lot to offer. I think we are the party of investing in our kids future, we are the party of education, giving everyone an opportunity. If we don't, I think we could fumble it away.
>> The issue of nuclear waste things stored has brought local Democrats and yourself together to support opening a nuclear waste site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. That is in the process of moving through Congress. Do you expect that bill to make it to the president's desk in 2018?
>> I should say that it's common for the five of us to work together. We really do get along and indoors against each other in the election. If the voters send us back, we will work together on something like visas or the border or on this particular issue. I supported this bill and I think it makes sense to move nuclear waste away from the ocean. It seems like it has pretty good support except for in Nevada. I think that we will see. It has bipartisan support and it's a good shot we should get it passed in the house and that we hope in the Senate.
>> As a member of the Veterans Affairs committee, you must be aware of the criticisms of the voice program. That was created an attempt to decrease the wait time that veterans were encountering at the VA. Do you support expanding healthcare choice for veterans or increasing funding to the existing VA programs as a way of providing better health for veterans?
>> I think veterans across the country support healthy VA. That is what we are concentrating on. In some instances where you have procedure that only is done once a month by specialist, you will not hold that particular position on your staff. That should be provided in the community. Another instances were periodically you might have delays in the VA. There are to be overflow in the community. We support that. I will not see it as an either or. I think there are some people that would like to privatize the VA. I really don't see support for the on either side right now. I think the focus is on a trace program that's pretty surgical -- pardon the expression about meeting the needs that it doesn't make sense to do inside the VA.
>> I've been speaking with Scott Peters. Thank you and happy new year.
>> Happy new year and great to be here.