Westerman: My Plan Was "Cover Taxpayers’ Pocketbooks"

Rep. Westerman visiting with reporters after today's announcement.
Rep. Westerman visiting with reporters after today’s announcement.

This morning in Hot Springs, Arkansas House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman announced he will seek the Republican nomination for the 4th Congressional District.
Westerman spoke to supporters at the Garland County Republican Headquarters before addressing the press. He began his remarks by saying, “We are called to be free,” adding that “it’s our duty to use our freedom to serve others.” Westerman said that while liberals in Arkansas and Washington talk about “progress,” the only progression he sees is one “away from our freedoms.”
After his remarks, Westerman spoke with reporters about his campaign and his policy priorities, should he land a spot in Congress. The first question was about the role of the ‘private option’ in this primary:

I’m not sure how big of a role that will play. I know there’s a statewide effort to get it on the ballot to repeal it. I’ve had absolutely nobody come up to me and tell me they wished I would’ve voted for the private option. Now that I’ve said that to the media, I’ll probably get some people telling me that, but I’m comfortable with where I’m at on the private option. If somebody wants to make that an issue, we can make it an issue and I’ll gladly defend my record on the private option.

This question may have been prompted by the comments Lt. Gov. Mark Darr made to the Associated Press last night. Darr, who also announced for the 4th District race this week, told the AP that the ‘private option’ wouldn’t have become law without Westerman, adding:

I just think that one he did the research for it, he helped write the bill and at the last hour he pulled out and said I’ve got something else. To me, that’s a CYA bill. It just covers your own rear and says this is my own.

(If you’re unfamiliar with the meaning of “CYA,” visit Urban Dictionary.)
Westerman was an early sponsor of the bill that ultimately became the ‘private option,’ but he told me on The Alice Stewart Show this morning that he “never supported” the plan (AUDIO HERE). Once the plan was written into the bill, Westerman removed himself as a sponsor, voted against the bill, and even spoke against it on the House floor, giving his now-famous ‘30 pieces of silver’ speech.
Westerman campaign spokesman Ryan James responded to Darr’s comments last night:

I’m sure there were many in the Capitol that would have enjoyed hearing the Lt. Governor’s ideas on the private option while they were timely and relevant. Leadership is recognizing a bad deal for Arkansans, doing what one’s constituents demand, and not waiting over 100 days to weigh in on a controversial issue — all things Bruce Westerman did as House Majority Leader.

Today, Westerman was asked to respond himself to Darr’s comments on the ‘private option:’

I didn’t pay that much attention to [the comments]. Somebody asked me earlier about some comment about ‘CYA’ on the alternative legislation I proposed to the private option and actually I would call my bill ‘CTP:’ Cover Taxpayers’ Pocketbooks” because that’s what I was looking at with that other bill. It would provide real reform to the Medicaid system…could’ve got a global waiver and a bloc grant, and we had provisions in there to help people transition off of government assistance. You know, Medicaid was developed for the aged, the blind, the disabled, and it’s become a whole lot more than that.

Finally, I asked Rep. Westerman to outline his top three domestic policy priorities:

First off, we’ve got to repeal Obamacare. That is a bad law, it’s been called by Democrats a ‘train wreck.’ It is a train wreck. We find out something new every day that’s not working in it. So that’s going to be a top priority, to stand the ground and oppose that. Some other important issues are the regulations and the edicts that come down out of Washington that affects the states and prohibits the states’ abilities to function and do the things that are best in their state. I believe that a government closest to the people is the most effective government and I want to try to untie the binds that the federal government has on our state legislature, our state government, and also our local — school boards, quorum courts, city boards. It’s all affected by what goes on in Washington. Immigration is going to be another big issue.

Westerman added that he does not support any of the existing immigration reform proposals in their current form. He said he needs more time to do more research on how we can solve our immigration problems, but he definitively stated, “I’m not for an amnesty plan. I’m for a plan that allows immigrants to come here legally and work here and come in by the rules. But amnesty gives somebody a place at the front of the line that ignored the rules to start with.”
It seems likely that this will not be the last disagreement over policy before the primary. As always, stay tuned to TheArkansasProject.com for all the latest.

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19 thoughts on “Westerman: My Plan Was "Cover Taxpayers’ Pocketbooks"

  • August 13, 2013 at 3:42 pm
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    I’d feel a lot better about Mr. Westerman if he didn’t support the private option before he opposed it. Maybe we should call him Mr. Waffleman.

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  • August 13, 2013 at 3:47 pm
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    Like John Kerry, Bruce was for it before he was against it. But it takes a special kind of gall to not only flip-flop, but then call people Judases for taking the same position he himself had taken the week before. What a hypocritical prick.

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    • August 14, 2013 at 6:50 pm
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      Perhaps Scott & Bobby P should focus on the fact Mark Darr’s Impact Management campaign team all lobbied extensively to pass the private option.
      Unless, of course, they’re on the payroll.
      Brummett had it right on Twitter Monday, they’re getting 60 pieces of silver for playing both sides.

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      • August 15, 2013 at 9:54 pm
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        Please find where I said “I support Darr.” Your comment is unfounded. I think it laughable that Westerman claims that he shouldn’t be held accountable for sponsoring a bill without knowing what was going to be in it. Really? If you don’t know the contents of a bill, don’t put your name on it. Pretty simple.
        Nic knows me and knows I am not a shill for Darr any more than I am for Westerman. I just think Westerman is essentially claiming he “accidentally” sponsored a bill just like a certain legislator recently claimed he “accidentally” attended a Klan rally. You don’t “accidentally” do either of those.
        Repeat after me: Westerman SPONSORED the bill. If he sponsored a bill without knowing its contents, he’s as bad as the libs who gave us Obamacare and said you had to pass it to find out what was in it. If he sponsored the bill knowing what was in it, he is lying to all of us now.

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  • August 13, 2013 at 8:28 pm
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    If this is the best y’all can throw at Westerman……..you have already lost….you just don’t know it yet.

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  • August 13, 2013 at 9:37 pm
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    there is nothing wrong with changing your mind. it’s what we want to do to the ‘liberals’. what matters is, why do we change our minds? because we are persuaded to do so. but how are we persuaded? with argument and reason? or bribery? something else? until obamacare is destroyed and erased forever, any control we can keep (keep to ourselves and keep from the Feds) is a lesser poison.

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    • August 13, 2013 at 9:47 pm
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      Handiboe, you make a strong point. We do have to allow people to change their minds — that’s why we’re involved in the cause in the first place! But you are also correct that -why- a politician changes their mind is critical.

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      • August 13, 2013 at 10:16 pm
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        Yes, and the question I find myself asking is “Why did he support the ‘private option’ in the first place?” It’s all well and good to say later that you realized you made a mistake, but to have jumped out in front advocating something that you then admit you hadn’t taken the time to learn about when supporting it seems awfully foolish for a LEADER in the state legislature.

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        • August 13, 2013 at 10:34 pm
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          He says he never supported the plan as drafted. He was a cosponsor of a shell bill that eventually became the “private option,” but he says he never supported the plan. That’s his position, take it or leave it.

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          • August 14, 2013 at 8:20 am
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            I understand what he is saying, but for a leader in the legislature to sponsor a bill with no idea what is in the bill seems…irresponsible. “Why yes, I sponsored the bill called ‘Permanent Security for Everyone’ because the name sounded cool. As soon as I found out they intended to incarcerate all citizens to ensure their security, I withdrew my sponsorship…”

          • August 14, 2013 at 8:59 am
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            But here’s how it works: the deadline for filing bills is several weeks before the end of the session. So legislators rush and file “shell bills” (bills with just titles) before the deadline, then they come back and fill in the details later. After interviewing Rep. Westerman twice on this subject, my understanding of his position is that he joined as a sponsor because he thought the bill was going to be a Medicaid reform bill. Then when the details were filled in and the bill was written, it turned into Medicaid expansion. When that happened, he got out.
            Now, you can disagree with Westerman’s claim that he never supported the plan — only he knows that, I suspect. But that’s how the process works. And he got out fairly early in the process, as I recall.

          • August 14, 2013 at 9:58 am
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            I thought Westerman helped write the bill. How did he not know what was in it?

          • August 16, 2013 at 11:10 am
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            One thing to point out – when the bill was in shell form, Westerman wasn’t a sponsor. He actually got added as a sponsor when the guts of the bill were added.
            Here is the link to the “shell” that was filed in January. One sponsor – J. Burris.
            ftp://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/bills/2013/public/HB1143/HB1143012520131105.pdf
            Here is the next version that came out April 3rd. Note that it adds Westerman as a sponsor AND adds all the stuff conservatives hate (such as massive Medicaid expansion and the creation of the Obamacare exchange “Marketplace”)
            ftp://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/bills/2013/public/HB1143/HB114304032013104732.pdf
            Just so you can double check that I am not leaving out intermediate versions where Westerman was a sponsor of the shell bill alone, here is the complete list of versions of the bill from the legislature:
            ftp://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/bills/2013/public/HB1143/
            As I have said, I am not supporting Darr, but I find it troubling that Westerman sponsored the bill (creating exchanges and expanding Medicaid) only to turn around and say “My bad, I never really supported it, I only supported a shell, but never the real thing.” We citizens have the ability to check up on these things, and when we do, we find that Amendment 1 to HB1154 both added the stuff that conservatives hate and simultaneously added Westerman as a sponsor. So, he sponsored the bill from the minute it had any guts and never sponsored it when it was simply a shell. Perhaps you could ask him about this incongruity next time you talk to him.
            http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2013/2013R/Amendments/HB1143-H1.pdf

  • August 14, 2013 at 8:56 am
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    This isn’t an endorsement of Westerman, but, I’m much less bothered by a rep who changed his mind, citing an analytical policy determination….. than a rep who supiciously flipped his/her vote overnight. Anyone?
    Somehow Bruce doesn’t seem like the one deserving scrutiny here…

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    • August 14, 2013 at 9:01 am
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      Good point. But those folks aren’t running for Congress. So they aren’t under such scrutiny — yet.

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      • August 14, 2013 at 12:19 pm
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        Touché. And I appreciate your post, but I hope those excoriating him in the comments took the time to express their displeasure to their own reps that betrayed their pledges.

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        • August 15, 2013 at 9:48 pm
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          I always let my representatives know how I feel.

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