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Blum undecided on health care vote, seeks input from constituents

Congressman hopes to gather feedback through online survey

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WATERLOO — U.S. Rep. Rod Blum joined his Republican colleagues in advocating for the repeal and replacement of the federal health care reform known as Obamacare. But he says he’s keeping an open mind about the actual replacement legislation that’s been proposed.

“I didn’t have a preconceived idea if I’m voting yes or no. I actually wanted to see what the bill looked like,” Blum said Friday. “I’m keeping an open mind about the bill, and we’ll see what it ends up being.”

Blum, R-1st District, who is in his second term, said aside from reading the legislation and keeping up on its changes, he also is hoping to hear from constituents about their thoughts on the proposed American Health Care Act.

He said he’s already received plenty of phone calls and emails and has sent a survey to the more than 1,000 people on his email list. The survey also is on his website at blum.house.gov/health-care-survey.

“We’ll be gathering those right up until we have a vote. We’ll be gathering up those responses, and my staff compiles them and I’ll be looking at those every night,” Blum said. “I encourage people to go out there and give us their thoughts.”

Blum said he expects the legislation to go through some changes before it is brought to the full U.S. House for a vote. He called it a “work in progress.”

The bill could come up for a vote as early as the end of this week, but Blum said a lot depends on the changes that are made and whether they can lead to a majority of legislators supporting the proposal.

“I’ll only vote for the bill if I feel like it’s going to bring down insurance costs,” Blum said. “If I feel like we’re replacing Democrat overregulation in the marketplace with Republican overregulation in the marketplace, I’ll buck my leadership and my party on it.”

Blum said his position on repeal and replace has not changed. He wants to see a plan that increases competition in the insurance marketplace and helps people who can’t afford health insurance, particularly through health savings accounts.

Blum is a member of the House Freedom Caucus that has been opposed to the American Health Care Act. But he stressed the group does not automatically follow leadership, and he will vote for whatever he thinks is best.

“It’s evolving and the president wants to make it better than the current House bill is what I have heard, so I’m all for that,” Blum said, adding that Republican President Donald Trump is a businessman and deal maker who is talking to various Republicans at the Capitol to work on improving the bill.

While Blum is continuing to take input through his offices and the survey, he said he has not yet found the time to schedule a town hall, though staff is working on it. He said he’s “not ducking” the meetings with his constituents but rather has had a busy schedule in Congress.

He said he takes a long view and, recognizing he’s little over two months into a two-year term, he has plenty of opportunities to hear from constituents yet during this term.

But he made clear “it matters” that constituents weigh in on the health care legislation.

“I’m listening. I’m listening to the people in my district, and I’m watching,” Blum said.

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