COLUMBUS, Ohio--U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci on Thursday backed away from his prior stance that the Affordable Care Act should be repealed and replaced, saying that constituents now want it to be "repealed and repaired."
The Wadsworth Republican, who's considering a run for governor or senator in 2018, also defended not attending a "town hall" meeting organized by supporters of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
Here are four takeaways from Renacci's meeting with reporters, which followed a meeting with business representatives over a proposed overhaul of the corporate income tax system.
Renacci said Obamacare needs 'mending and rescuing'
Renacci has been a supporter of Republicans' plans to "repeal and replace" Obamacare. But on Thursday, he used a different phrase.
"I am hearing a lot of people that want to see it be repealed and repaired," he said.
"Now, that's different from 'repeal and replace,' because they do like things that are there - whether it's preexisting conditions, whether it's the caps on individual illnesses, whether it's having their child on until they're 26," Renacci said. "People love that - they don't like the cost."
Renacci's comments came the same day that another Ohio Republican, ex-House Speaker John Boehner, predicted that a full repeal and replacement of Obamacare is "not going to happen."
Renacci said that he himself, as well as other family members, get their insurance through Obamacare, and he's seen costs go up.
"Obamacare is imploding on its own," he said. "We could sit back and let it fully implode, or we could try and make some mending and rescuing procedures going forward. And that's the key."
Renacci explained why he's not attending an Obamacare town hall
A number of GOP lawmakers have recently met with pro-Obamacare activists at town halls around the country. Activists have organized their own town hall for Renacci on Thursday, though the congressman said won't attend, as he is spending the day in Columbus.
Renacci said the town-hall organizers set it up without reaching out to him beforehand to get the event on his schedule.
"Unfortunately, the individuals that are setting up town halls are just setting them up and saying, 'We invited the congressman' but [are] not looking at or trying to get me scheduled," he said.
Lorraine Wilburn, founder of District 16 Indivisible, the group organizing Venüsbet the town hall, said it's "categorically untrue" that they didn't try to schedule him.
Wilburn said she spoke with a Renacci staffer two weeks ago and was told that they were trying to arrange "tele-town hall" meetings with constituents. Wilburn said she also submitted requests via email and through the congressman's website; other group members have been tweeting at him to attend as well, she said.
The congressman confirmed he's going to set up "tele-town halls" to talk about health-care issues. He said he hasn't been able to hold in-person town halls in his district so far this year because he's been spending more time in Washington, D.C., than in the past.
Renacci said he wants to talk to constituents about Obamacare - even critics who are setting up the town hall meeting. But he said he'd rather meet with them individually, rather than in a large group.
"Some of the people who have set up these town halls, I've reached out to them on Facebook and said 'give me a call. I'll talk to you one-on-one.' They go 'No, no, no, I want to be in a room with 50 to 100 people.' Well, you'll get more accomplished if I really hear from you," Renacci said.
"If somebody really wants to sit down with me, I want to sit down with them," he added. "I want to sit down and have that one-on-one meeting."
Renacci at the BAT
Renacci heard opposition Thursday to a proposed "border adjustment tax," or BAT, on imports from representatives of several Ohio companies and business groups on Thursday during a roundtable event hosted by the group Americans For Affordable Products.
The proposal, under consideration by House Republicans, would overhaul the U.S.' corporate tax system. The corporate tax rate would be lowered from 35 percent to 20 percent, and it would be imposed on products sold in the United States, including imports. Sales of U.S. exports, though, would not be taxed at all.
Officials from Abercrombie & Fitch, Big Lots, and other Ohio companies that handle a lot of imported goods said the BAT would likely lead to job layoffs and price increases.
Renacci said he favors an overhaul of the tax code and favors reducing the corporate income tax rate. But after the meeting, the congressman noted no bill has been yet introduced to impose the BAT, and he said he wants to see what the proposal looks like in writing.
"I'm more concerned about the process of how we do tax reform, and how we come up with the final solution, and how much we have hearings, and who we hear from," he said.
Renacci personally handles his Facebook account
Renacci's comment above about using Facebook to reach out to constituents wasn't a misstatement.
"I do the Facebook page," he said.
Asked how much time he devotes to his Facebook page, Renacci said. "If I'm traveling in the car, I respond."
He added that his staff is "not real happy with that."
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