Before Christmas, Congressman Stephen Fincher had a breakfast meeting to talk to his fellow Republicans. Even though Midtown is not in his district – or perhaps because conservative Midtowners have no real representation in Steve Cohen – I went to hear what he had to say.
The breakfast occurred after Republicans had passed the budget in the House, angering some in our party. Fincher explained why he voted for it.
“Number 1: We think the American people are seeing Obamacare for what it is – a disaster. We want to keep the focus on Obamacare to take the Senate. We’ll lose the opportunity if we get bogged down with the government shutdown.
“I was initially a ‘no’ because we’re not cutting enough,” Fincher said. “But the Democrats were baiting us into another government shutdown. The last time, when we did shut it down, we got nothing for it. We need to get back to talking about kitchen table problems.
“Secondly, we need to stop playing the game of who’s the most conservative.” Fincher commented that he enjoys Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and appreciates Mark Levin, but “Ronald Reagan said we have to put the hay down where the goats can eat it. We have to stop being the party that is anti things and offer solutions.”
Shelby GOP Chair Justin Joy asked what replacement for Obamacare Republicans have in mind.
“We want to keep the allowing kids up to 26 years old to stay on their parents’ plan. Also covering pre existing plans. We want a tax deduction for high risk plans and give people the option to buy across state lines.” Fincher warned, however, that in this next year in Congress Republicans must avoid bills that Democrats can use to make Obamacare palatable.
Fincher noted that since the failure of Obamacare, “Mark Pryor (Democrat Senator) is toast. He’s at 25% approval in Arkansas. (His opponent) Tom Cotton is up 10 points. If we take the Senate we can repeal Obamacare. And we can use the new filibuster vote against the Democrats. The Affordable Care Act may give us the opportunity to turn the ship around.”
A judge in the audience warned Fincher that Republicans “cannot keep dissing the Tea Party,” a comment that drew applause from the rest. Fincher went on to recount his experience with the 6 or 7 different Tea Party groups in west Tennessee. “Most don’t like me,” he said. He heard from them when he voted for the Patriot Act and when he voted to raise the debt ceiling.
“I don’t work for the Speaker or the president. My job is representing you. That’s why I have a conference call with constituents every month or every two weeks. I do it to find out your opinions.” He said, however, that voters must be reasonable in their objectives.
On immigration, Fincher acknowledges there is a problem. But he doesn’t see the issue coming up this year in Congress.
“We’ve got to fix it. The problem is you can’t trust the president. If we do a bill he will use it for amnesty. The president will hang us on it. We’ll do it eventually in the House piece by piece.”
Fellow Republicans also asked him about the party’s future.
“Right now we are a leaderless party,” Fincher said. ” I love John Boehner, but he’s been there for 24 years. We need someone like Ronald Reagan to pull us all together. We have to have a ‘movie star.’
“Our party needs to embrace all of us, because we’ve got a two party system. That means Tea Party people, Chris Christie and Ted Cruz.
“Your children’s future is hanging in the balance in the next five years.”