Kasich goes to Washington, calls on Congress to get along

Ohio Gov. John Kasich
Ohio Gov. John Kasich

John Kasich’s bipartisanship tour landed in Washington, D.C., Monday, with the Ohio governor urging lawmakers to make nice with Democrats and lauding journalists — a group that President Donald Trump has referred to as “the enemy of the people” — at a D.C. dinner.

Kasich flew into Washington to meet with members of the Tuesday Group, the coalition of moderate Republicans who were prepared to vote down a GOP effort to reform health care and repeal the 2010 health care law known as Obamacare.

Moderate Republicans as well as the conservative House Freedom Caucus united against the bill, with the former arguing it was cruel to the poor and the latter arguing it didn’t undo enough of the 2010 law. The bill never came to a vote.

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While Trump has argued he’ll let the 2010 law collapse on its own, Kasich and the Tuesday Group argue the time is right to shoot for incremental changes to Obamacare. To do so, they said, they’ll have to enlist the support of Democrats.

Rep. Charlie Dent, a Pennsylvania Republican who co-chairs the Tuesday Group, said he believes Democrats will be willing to work with Republicans to help fix the individual market, which both sides have acknowledged needs attention. He said they might be able to work together on other unpopular aspects of the bill.

But in order for that to happen, Democrats will have to come to the table. Kasich urged moderate Republicans to reach out.

“My concern now is will the Democrats be emboldened enough to say ‘we’re not participating. You all are drowning and go ahead and drown?’” Kasich asked. “The problem with that is there are some provisions of the Affordable Care Act that need to be addressed.”

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He said not fixing flaws in the 2010 law could result in people losing their coverage. But Democrats will have to trust Republicans in order to keep that from happening.

“Ask Democrats for a date,” he said. “If they don’t give you one, put it on Facebook. Unfriend them.”

Later, Kasich gave the keynote address at the 2017 Toner Prize Celebration, an award ceremony honoring political reporting. The winner this year was David A. Farenthold of the Washington Post. As Kasich spoke, a source close to the Ohio governor confirmed he will be returning to New Hampshire in late April after the release of his book, “Two Paths: America Divided or United.”

Kasich told the crowd about his time in the House, where some days he would go down to the gym and play basketball with Democrats, or even go out to dinner and have drinks. Those days, he said, seem to be past — and those divisions make things dysfunctional, he maintained.

“What do we do in life where we don’t compromise?” he asked, saying many of the banner achievements in Congress over the years — civil rights, Medicare and Social Security — “happened because both parties stamped them approved.”

Of Congress, he said: “These people cling to their jobs because it becomes their identity. These jobs…sometimes you’ve got to walk.”

Still, he said, he is confident the country will bridge the divide.

“I have a sense in my soul we’re going to get through this,” he said. “But it’s going to take all of us.”

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