Around the country, Republican Congress members are dogged by protestors hoping to stir up resistance to President Trump’s agenda. But at Wednesday’s Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce luncheon, a friendly crowd greeted Alaska Congressman Don Young.
One constituent asked why Republicans didn’t have a bill to replace the Affordable Care Act ready to put on the president’s desk after the election.
Young says his side of the aisle was unprepared for a Republican White House.
“I will plead guilty. We all voted to repeal it 12 times,” he said. “As long as Obama was in the office it was an easy vote. Now we’re in the control tower. We’re in the wheelhouse.”
Young told the audience they could expect a new Republican bill before July. He says Speaker Paul Ryan’s bill, which was withdrawn for lack of support, would’ve caused premiums to jump in Alaska, higher than in any other state. (The bill would have ended the subsidies that help people buy plans on the individual market and replaced them with tax credits that didn’t vary by location.)
And Young didn’t like a provision that would have allowed companies to raise rates on senior citizens relative to younger people.
“Well, I happen to be a senior citizen,” said Young, who will turn 84 in June. “That disturbed me greatly, as far as premiums go, raising it five times over the young person.”
The congressman was upbeat about the prospect of rolling back federal regulations to encourage resource production in Alaska. He came with Anne Young, his wife of nearly two years, and he said he plans to run for re-election next year. He is already the most senior Republican in Congress.
Young responded in personal terms to a question about opioid addiction.
“I’m a little experienced in this. I’ve lost two nephews to it. I have actually two grandkids that have become drug addicts,” he said. “And if I can catch the dealer, you’re going to see me behind bars. Because that’s wrong.”
Afterward, he didn’t offer specifics, but he said the two nephews were addicted to crack.
“This is quite a few years ago,” he said. “And of course I have people that are frankly, been on and have used drugs. And it’s not a good thing.”
Young also repeated calls for Alaskans to defy the feds and build a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge to connect King Cove to Cold Bay. He said he was speaking as a “constituent” rather than a congressman. He also said he’d like to revive plans for a Susitna hydroelectric dam, though he said the state will have request it.
According to his spokesman, the appearance was the only public event the congressman had in the Anchorage area during the two-week congressional recess.