With the government shutdown headed for its first full week, The Ticker caught up with Congressman Dan Benishek (R-Mich), who represents Traverse City, much of northern Michigan, and the Upper Peninsula. Benishek had just finished meeting with Republican leadership regarding the shutdown.
Ticker: You just got out of your Republican conference. We’re hearing that Speaker Boehner will likely seek an all-encompassing deal that might include the shutdown, the budget, the debt ceiling and more.
Benishek: I’m not sure which way it’s going to go. As that time [November debt ceiling deadline] comes closer that might have to happen. I’m just so sick of partisan politics. This is bigger than Obamacare or the debt ceiling, frankly. It’s about whether or not we remain a country of laws or become one where a president can change the law with his pen. He signed executive orders illegally changing his own healthcare law and delayed the employer mandate by a year; that’s not in the law. And now Congress gets a special subsidy; that wasn’t in the law. In the second to last piece of legislation we passed before the shutdown, I voted to make the same rules apply to everyone. Is that so horrible? The people in my district were clamoring for that. Then we wanted to have a conference with the Senate, but they don’t want to do that I’m pretty disappointed. I think we were very accommodating in our attempts to fund the government. And now Mr. [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid has said ‘we won’t be extorted by anarchists.’ Really? We are the U.S. House of Representatives. They’re just getting personally degrading.
Ticker: Which parts of the Affordable Care Act could you stomach, and which are the most unacceptable to you?
Benishek: Well there are so many parts that are bad. Of course everyone can agree that young people should be allowed to be on their parents’ insurance and that those with preexisting conditions should be able to shop for healthcare. That’s common sense. But in terms of taking over the whole healthcare system…the problem with his plan is he pays for it by cutting Medicare, and it will affect seniors and hospitals in northern Michigan. A report we received from the University of Minnesota we went through shows that Grand Traverse County would have $200 million in cuts over the next ten years.
Ticker: What’s the latest with the Sleeping Bear Dunes protection legislation you sponsored? You got a hearing from the Natural Resources Committee. Will you get a vote on the floor?
Benishek: I’m still hoping, but this shutdown has sucked all the oxygen out of the room here. We got it through the initial committee process, and now we have another markup hearing to go through. I’ve talked to the leadership and they’ve assured me we’ll get it, so I’m still hopeful about something by the end of the year.
Ticker: Jerry Cannon has announced he’ll run against you. Any comments about your reelection campaign?
Benishek: You know, I’m pretty busy doing the job here. But yes, I’m planning to run for reelection. I’m just a doctor taking on a different job, trying to make it easier for our children and grandchildren to have the opportunities we had growing up. I was thankful for being elected and I’d certainly appreciate being reelected again.
Ticker: Do you still love what you do? Is a time like this actually exciting, draining, or what?
Benishek: I don’t get excited; I’m a surgeon, and I don’t like patients dying on me. But I’ve been involved in serious fights before. You have to keep your cool and be sure you’re making the right decisions…what’s best for the republic and the constituents. You know, this is a serious job. It’s a privilege to be here. I mentioned in our conference earlier that since the republic began, about a billion people have lived in America, and only 11,000 have served in Congress. So it’s a genuine privilege.