After declining an invitation to a public town hall held by local liberal groups in August, U.S. Rep. Dave Brat spoke in front of a friendlier crowd at the Women’s Business Council of the Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce last week.
Since the election of President Donald Trump, Republican politicians – including Brat – have been targeted by liberal groups upset with the new administration and efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Hundreds showed up to chastise Brat during his last town hall meeting in the county, at the Clover Hill Assembly of God in May, after he voted to repeal and replace the ACA. More recently, Brat declined to attend a public meeting organized by local progressive groups, including Indivisible Midlothian, on Aug. 22 in Glen Allen.
It was a calmer scene at the Aug. 31 Chesterfield chamber breakfast, which took place at the Boathouse at Sunday Park and was only open to chamber members. Following an introductory talk touching on Judeo-Christian values, Adam Smith, small government and the founding fathers, the former Randolph-Macon economics professor talked about plans for tax reform, regulatory reform and health care.
Regarding the failure of the Senate to pass a measure to repeal the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – after a measure had been passed by the House, Brat said he was disappointed.
“I had huge expectations, and they were crushed. We had seven years to get health care policy straight,” Brat said. “We goofed that up. The Senate couldn’t even get to yes on a skinny bill.”
Brat was more upbeat regarding the future of regulatory reform, mentioning that the House had recently passed the Financial CHOICE Act, which would roll back many of the regulatory measures of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Dodd-Frank was signed into law seven years ago in response to the financial crisis of 2007- 2008, adding regulations to nearly all parts of the country’s financial services industry. Many Republicans argue that Dodd-Frank has hurt small businesses.
“[The Financial CHOICE Act] passed the House, it’s in the Senate now. We’ll see what happens,” Brat said. “We’ll need to find eight Democrats to go along with that [for it to pass].”
Given that Republicans currently occupy the White House and both houses of Congress, Brat said it would be unacceptable if they were unable to achieve tax reform. “If we fail on taxes, we’re all packing our bags,” he said. “The American people will rightly send us all packing.”
During the question and answer session, chamber member Lyndon Evans asked about the future of health care coverage, mentioning that he had a preexisting condition.
“I need the government’s help to force them to even let me buy health insurance. When we repeal Obamacare, where do I go?” asked Evans.
Brat responded that he had previously supported a measure that would keep preexisting conditions covered, then pivoted to discuss the problems of the Affordable Care Act.
“I didn’t think he answered my question, my concerns,” said Evans, who owns two businesses and said he’d had his own issues with the Affordable Care Act. “I’m happy that he came out here. It was a little too macro for me. I wish he’d addressed more of the issues that affect us.”
Tania Kalentzos, marketing director for Marva, the Galleria of Stone, appreciated Brat’s speech.
“I thought it was wonderful, very insightful. Real talk,” Kalentzos said. “I always appreciate his stance on everything. … He works for the people and not for the government.”
Kalentzos’ coworker Lauren Fulcher agreed.
“He’s definitely draining the swamp, and I think that [Brat] is America’s best chance right now,” Fulcher said. ¦