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Morning Shift

Our Representatives: Congressman Peter Roskam

In our new series, “Our Representatives,” Morning Shift is reaching out to all 26 congressmen, congresswomen, and senators who represent the WBEZ listening area. 

For this second installment in our series, we turn to Republican Congressman Peter Roskam of Illinois’ 6th district. He represents places like Westmont and Wheaton in the western suburbs, and Barrington and Lake Zurich, which are northwest of the city.

Morning Shift host Jenn White talks to Roskam about everything from climate change to immigration reform.

On whether repealing the Affordable Care Act is still the right move

Rep. Peter Roskam: I’m willing to work with anybody on developing a reasonable health care plan. But my district has really suffered under the ACA. Premiums are too high, the protections are not there that were promised, folks were told they were going to save $2,500 per family — none of that has turned out to be true.

We passed a version out of the House that I think is far superior, and that’s the reason that I voted for it — I made a commitment to my constituents that I would.

On Trump’s tax plan and the ‘middle-class’

Roskam: It’s not so much a plan as it is guidance, and one of the key things is middle-income tax relief.

There are a lot of people (in the North and Northwest suburbs) who are in that middle-income category and they feel whipsawed right now. The general feeling is that in order to benefit under the current tax code, you’d need a pretty sophisticated tax planner. So the thinking is: Let’s cut these taxes in a responsible way and get relief all around. It helps the economy grow in a variety of ways for everybody.

As for President Trump wanting to cut the corporate tax from 35 percent to 20 percent, I think it’s a good idea. The United States has the highest statutory tax rate in the world, which means every other large economy we are competing with has a lower rate.

If we lower the rate, we’re going to see more economic investment opportunities move into the U.S. Right now, most economists estimate that there’s between $2.5 and $3 trillion that are locked out of the U.S. economy. And there are companies headquartered in the U.S. that have profits that they’ve made overseas that they are not bringing back into the U.S. because of our tax code.

If we improve the tax code, we improve the business environment. And that’s true for small companies as well. Most of the constituent companies that I represent are what is known as pastor entities. That means they’re paying taxes at the individual rate. With President Trump’s new guidelines, for the first time ever, we’re saying let’s get their business taxes down by the same proportion that the larger corporations’ taxes are coming down in order to level that playing field all the way around.

On comprehensive immigration reform and the global refugee crisis

Roskam: I don’t think the Trump administration had a well-crafted policy laid out at the very beginning, and they really stumbled along in terms of the refugee issue. For instance, we need a secure border. That does not mean a wall, it means a secure border, and there are ways to do that with technology. There’s also a sensitivity on the plight of DACA kids who came here through no fault of their own and are in a legal limbo — and we have had wildly inconsistent immigration policies for the last 30 years and now we’re paying the price for it.

The idea of an “all or nothing, fix it all at one time” immigration strategy is a pipe dream. The country has tried this over and over again and it has been entirely unsuccessful. The smarter move, in my view, is to break this problem down: Take one step and remove the drama, and repeat.

There are two groups of people out there influencing this debate. One group doesn’t want a solution and the other does, and I think 90 percent of the country is somewhere in the middle saying, “C’mon, let’s come up with a solution here.”

I think comprehensive is the most toxic word in American politics. It presumes the capacity of the part of the federal government to be incredibly nimble. Look at the comprehensive health plan we’ve been debating. The federal government really is not able, in my observation, to do things too “comprehensively” too well. I think we’re far better off breaking it down and taking it one step at a time.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity by Gabrielle Wright. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire conversation, which was adapted to the web.

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