By Steve Garbacz
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Jim Banks hasn’t worked even a full week in the U.S. Capitol, but he’s already signed on as co-sponsor to one of the plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Repealing the health care law, also known as Obamacare, is surfacing as the first priority for Republicans in Congress, and Banks is no exception from the party current.
Banks, a Republican who is starting his first term as Indiana’s 3rd District representative, is hoping Congress also will attempt to address tax and regulatory reform, and illegal immigration in his first session. And he wants House members to do something to help bolster America’s military and aid its efforts around the globe, a mission that is personal him as a U.S. Navy reservist who deployed to the Middle East in 2014-15.
But the Affordable Care Act is the GOP’s No. 1 target at the moment since Republicans held majorities of both wings of Congress in the recent election, Banks said.
“The Obamacare repeal measure is moving very quickly. (Last Wednesday) we heard from Vice President-elect Mike Pence, and his statement was unequivocally we must keep our promise to repeal Obamacare,” Banks said.
As of Thursday, with a less than three full days under his belt, Banks signed on as a co-sponsor to an Obamacare-repeal plan introduced by Tennessee Republican Rep. Dr. Phil Roe.
Roe’s bill would repeal the Affordable Care Act while introducing other changes, including allowing purchase of health insurance plans across state lines, providing malpractice insurance reforms, increasing access to health savings accounts and supporting pro-life positions in relation to health care, Banks said.
Although opponents of the Obamacare repeal are expressing concerns that a rapid repeal could affect more than 20 million Americans who are insured because of the act, Banks expects Republicans will be able to quickly sculpt a replacement program that includes many of the provisions he supported in Roe’s bill.
Banks said President-elect Donald Trump has indicated he wants a health care plan by Feb. 20.
“We have a short window of time here. I think we strike while the iron is hot,” Banks said. “I believe that (Roe’s) American Healthcare Reform Act will provide a replacement that will be more affordable for most Hoosiers in northeast Indiana.”
Although health care is dominating the discussion right now, Banks wants to see Congress work on the economy, the national debt, the military and immigration.
House committee assignments haven’t been doled out yet, and Banks’ assignments will determine what issues he’ll get a chance to work on more intimately. He indicated to House leadership he’d ideally like to land on some kind of military-related committee, to take advantage of his recent service, or a fiscal board where he could have some input on the nation’s nearly $20 trillion debt.
“I’d like to focus on a few areas, national security being a foremost priority, veterans issues being a priority. We have a significant number of veterans in northeast Indiana, more per capita than any other part of the state, and the stories I hear of their trials dealing with the (Veterans Affairs) prove over and over that’s a broken system,” Banks said. “I also believe that we have to address the budget issues in this Congress to retreat from a $20 trillion national debt and get reform of the size and scope of the federal government.”
For the moment, Banks admits he’s still a little awestruck by D.C. and the opportunity voters have given him to work on national policy. He’s finding his bearings, too, joking that he’s still getting lost walking around the Capitol.
He’s in the process of putting together his staff in D.C. as well as back in northeast Indiana, but ideally he wants to have a open channel to communicate between his congressional office and the district.
“I’m excited and honored to be here and grateful for the opportunity folks back home have given me to serve,” Banks said. “We’re building a great team both here in D.C. and back in the district. We’ve got a ways to go, and we want to do a great job.”