U.S. Sen. Richard Burr said Tuesday that Congress’ failed effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act was “messed up,” but that he’s hopeful a solution could emerge in the coming weeks.
Burr spoke to local Chamber of Commerce officials in Franklin County and took questions about health care, national security and President Donald Trump’s agenda. He said he liked the substance of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s health-care bill but said House leadership’s process was flawed.
“This is a very doable thing, but you can’t carry tablets down from the mountain and present them to members of Congress,” Burr said of Trump and Ryan’s efforts to pass a bill. “I think they approached the health-care bill the wrong way. I don’t think the content of it was that far off, but the process was pretty messed up.”
Burr called on Ryan to be less of a “policy guru” and listen to lawmakers to find the best proposal. “He just can’t be as dominant as he was on health care,” the senator said. “If he is, there’s less of a chance we get it.”
Burr, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, also answered questions about national security threats. He said he supported Trump’s airstrike in Syria in the wake of a chemical weapon attack.
“I think the president did the right thing with his strike in Syria by not informing Congress before he did it,” Burr said. “I personally was notified when the cruise missiles were in the air. It is impossible for an operation like that to be kept secret if you share it with 535 members of Congress.”
Burr said some of his colleagues would likely have spilled the news on TV immediately, alerting the Syrian government.
Asked about the threat posed by North Korea – which launched a failed missile test this week – Burr said the situation is “something to really be concerned about.”
“I think the jury is still out as to whether he’s crazy,” Burr said of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “When you do things like he does, you automatically assume he’s crazy. The pace of missile development between his father’s term and his term has increased the testing about twenty-fold.”
Burr said the North Korean threat made it “wise” for Trump to meet with the leader of China. “We don’t have a lot of options as it relates to North Korea,” he said.
Burr said the national security threats go beyond the situations in the news, and he receives daily briefings about happenings around the world.
“There’s not a continent left in the world where there’s not a concern we have about the security of America and our local partners,” he said.
With the Youngsville event taking place on Tax Day, Burr also took a question about whether Trump should release his tax returns, and he said it would “probably be good.”
“He doesn’t have to do it,” Burr said. “He’s already filled out a personal financial disclosure. ... In President Trump’s personal financial disclosure, you get more information than you ever would off of a tax form. I don’t think that there’s any value of it, but every president prior to this has supplied his tax form.”
Burr said he’s hopeful the Republican leadership in Washington can “get this economy growing again, not at an anemic growth of 1 or 2 percent.” He argued that corporate tax reform is “essential.”
“If we can make American business competitive globally, then we can grow the U.S. economy 4 or 5 percent,” he added.
He said he’s also looking forward to seeing Trump’s infrastructure plan. “I don’t think when we see it, it’s going to be repaving (Interstate) 540,” he said. “Repaving 540 isn’t really growing the economy, but creating a new interstate corridor from Norfolk to Raleigh is growing the economy. That’s exactly what eastern North Carolina needs.”
Burr was referring to plans to upgrade U.S. 64 and U.S. 17 to interstate highway standards between the two cities. So far, the project isn’t funded and there’s no timeline for construction.
The senator also took a quick shot at the news media, which he frequently criticized during his campaign last year. He said that if he had a subscription to The News & Observer, “I couldn't read it because I’d slit my wrists because of what they say about me.”