Noem: Vote to repeal health-care law proudest accomplishment so far

Rep. Kristi Noem said working to block the health-care law enacted in 2010 is her proudest moment during her first 100 days in office. "I'd say probably the greatest accomplishment was repealing 'Obamacare' on the House floor," said Noem, R-S.D.,...

Rep. Kristi Noem said working to block the health-care law enacted in 2010 is her proudest moment during her first 100 days in office.

"I'd say probably the greatest accomplishment was repealing 'Obamacare' on the House floor," said Noem, R-S.D., when asked during a teleconference with South Dakota journalists Thursday to list her top accomplishment.

She said South Dakotans were "overwhelmingly" opposed to the health-care reform law and wanted her to follow through on her campaign pledge to help overturn it.

While the Republican-controlled House voted to overturn the health-care law, the repeal was rejected in the Senate. If it had passed there, President Obama had pledged to veto it.

"Even though the Senate did not take up that bill, did not pass it, we're still working on it, and we're going to continue to work to defund that bill and to repeal it and that's still one of the provisions that's still being considered," Noem said.


Noem said she is particularly opposed to taxes on medical devices and other taxes that she feels raise health-care costs.

"We need health-care reform," Noem said. "That just wasn't the answer."

She said she favors easing restrictions on state rules, and doing that may also help reduce costs.

"We're looking to increase the competition," Noem said. "I think there's got to be some kind of medical liability reform, tort reform. We have been repealing the detrimental portions of it. ... We're working to defund it."

Noem said in her first 100 days in office, she and her staff have:

* Attended 201 constituent meetings;

* Responded to 13,482 letters from constituents;

* Contacted 109,929 South Dakota families through tele-town halls,


* Co-sponsored 31 bills and opened constituent offices in Aberdeen, Rapid City, Sioux Falls and Watertown.

Noem has also voted to cut House spending by 5 percent, saving $35 million annually, supported banning earmarks, voted for the Small Business 1099 Mandate Repeal, which has been signed into law, and backed an increase in government transparency. As a result of the transparency legislation, all bills are now posted online three days before a vote.

"It's hard to believe it's already been that long," Noem said. "We've hit the ground running here in the first 100 days to represent South Dakota as effectively as possible here in Washington, D.C."

She feels she and Republicans are "making headway" to change government and reduce government spending.

Ben Nesselhuf, chairman of the South Dakota Democratic Party, said Noem's first 100 days were nothing to brag about.

"What Congresswoman Noem's first 100 days in office have shown us is a congresswoman who always puts the interests of Washington ideologues before South Dakota's farmers, families and businesses," Nesselhuf said in a news release.

He said 346,000 South Dakotans with a pre-existing condition would lose coverage if Noem's efforts to repeal the health-care law succeeded.

Her other policies are bad for people on Medicare, college students, children in Head Start and their parents, small businesses, farmers and veterans, Nesselhuf said, while reducing support for flood mitigation efforts.


In other news:

* Noem voted for the bill Thursday to provide funding for the federal government for the remaining six months of the 2011 fiscal year. It passed in the Republican-controlled House 260-167.

It was expected to be approved later Thursday by the Democratic-led Senate and signed into law by President Obama.

"Personally, I would have liked to have seen a package that had more cuts, and I came here to cut spending," she said. "This bill does that at historic levels."

Noem said she decided it was important to pass the bill to fund basic government services and pay members of the military

She noted that the bill provides $78.5 billion less than what Obama had asked for and will reduce spending by $315 billion over the next decade.

It will also eliminate four "czars" appointed by Obama, including officials to oversee health care, climate change, the automobile industry and urban affairs.

It will also terminate more than 40 Department of Education programs, Noem said.


"Overall, this bill is a good first step to cut spending, and that's why I'm supporting it," she said.

Noem said even with the cuts, the 2011 budget is an increase from the 2010 budget.

"It's lower than it would have been, but it's higher than it was last year," she said.

But it will mean significant reductions in spending in future years by slowing the rate of growth, Noem said.

* Noem said she will vote for Rep. Paul Ryan's proposed budget bill today, since she said it places a cap on federal spending, repeals the health-care law and reduces tax breaks for large corporations.

The bill does get "pretty bold" on reforming Medicare and Medicaid, she said, but the ideas are "valid."

Ryan, R-Wis., is proposing a 2012 budget that will restructure Medicare, change funding for Medicaid and cut $6 trillion from federal spending in the next decade. Other budget proposals will also be offered in the coming weeks and months.

House Republicans are torn over Ryan's bill, while Senate Democrats have said it is "dead on arrival" if it clears the House and comes to the Senate. It needs 217 votes to pass the House.


"You know, my intention is to support the budget tomorrow," Noem said.

But she said she will continue to study it before casting her vote, since "the devil's in the details" and she wants to ensure it is good for South Dakota.

* Noem said she supports proposed changes to Medicare but does not want to privatize it.

She said ensuring people 55 there will be no changes in their Medicare coverage is "a priority for me."

But she said long-term changes are essential.

"We recognize that we need to save Medicare, that it is going to be insolvent in the future and we need to take action and that is the responsible thing to do," Noem said.

Adjustments will be made based on income and people at higher risk, she said, but the program will not be turned over to private enterprise, she said.

"It's not privatization, it's essentially a premium support payment," Noem said. "It's pretty similar to a lot of things that members of Congress are offered through their health-care system and I think that's what's so interesting."


Noem said some members of Congress are seeking to "deprive" citizens from participating in a program similar to what they have had for years.

* Noem said she had no comment on Stephanie Herseth Sandlin's speech in Brookings Monday or Herseth Sandlin's announcement that she will serve as an adjunct assistant professor at South Dakota State University.

"No, I don't," she said. "We've got a pretty busy week out here and I've been pretty focused on that."

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