U.S. Rep. Tom Graves introduced his first bill in the House of Representatives on Wednesday to stop health care reform law funding — though its chances of success are questionable.
“We’ve been on a long, long campaign cycle and one of the top issues through the campaign was repealing and de-funding the health care reform that’s been passed. It’s one of the issues I was very vocal about and it’s something I’m carrying through with,” Graves said in a phone interview with The Times on Wednesday about HR 5882.
But Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, said the newly elected congressman’s bill was likely politically motivated.
“Tom Graves is a freshman in the minority party. The odds of him passing a bill are very slim,” Bullock said. “This is probably for public consumption back home.”
Graves was elected in May to serve out the remaining term of former Rep. Nathan Deal, who stepped down to run for governor.
In last week’s primary election, Graves was just shy of winning enough votes to win a full term, and will once again face former state Sen. Lee Hawkins in a runoff for the 9th District seat.
Graves said he hopes his bill will be the first step toward doing away with the health care reform law, which has been unpopular among Republicans.
“The quickest and most direct way to slow down the implementation of health care reform is to not allow the authorization of funds to carry it out. This legislation specifically prohibits any funds to be authorized,” Graves said. “There’s legislation to repeal the health care package in its entirety and there is a replacement health care reform package. It’s a multi-step effort. It all works together.”
Bullock said health care reform has been a common campaign platform for Republican candidates.
“It wasn’t all that popular when it was enacted,” Bullock said. “While Democrats hope that it will prove to be popular in time, it hasn’t done anything yet to win a whole lot of popularity.”
Even a solid Republican effort to repeal the health care law would be unlikely to succeed.
“You can run against it, you can say you’ll try to do all kinds of things if elected, even though you may not be in a position to do so,” Bullock said. “The only way a repeal of the health care bill could come about as long as Barack Obama is in the White House is if Republicans had a sufficient majority to be able to override a presidential veto. That would require a two-thirds vote. So even if there is a narrow Republican majority in the next Congress, the president could veto legislation to overturn what is his signature act.”
But Graves said he isn’t concerned about what party is in power.
“You don’t wait on a certain party to be in control or not. If it’s good policy you introduce it and you push it, you advocate for it and you begin that discussion and that’s how you build a coalition and bring more support and it takes time to do that,” Graves said.
“This is the perfect time to do that as we’re going in to the work period here coming up that gives us an opportunity to discuss that back in the district and allow other members to discuss it throughout the United States.”
Hawkins, Graves’ opponent in the Aug. 10 runoff, said he has questioned Graves’ decisions during his short tenure in Congress.
Graves was one of just a handful of votes against the Child Protection Improvements Act of 2010 and HR 5566, a bill that will prevent the interstate commerce of “animal crush” videos that depict animal cruelty.
“I think it’s definitely politically motivated,” Hawkins said. “Without a Republican Congress, it’s not going to go through. We all know that.”